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6.27.11 Mad River Watch Shows Lower E.coli Levels this Week
By: friendv3 (friendv3) 2011.06.28

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The second round of water samples taken by Friends of the Mad River volunteers on Monday morning June 27th show generally favorable swimming conditions with only two of thirty-five sites tested in violation of Vermont’s water quality standards. The two sites, Welder Brook and Doctor’s Brook in Moretown, were only slightly above standard for E.coli in recreational waters (77 colonies per 100 mL water). E. coli is a type of coliform bacteria, the presence of which indicates pollution from human or animal waste and the potential presence of disease causing organisms.


Spring 2011 has been a particularly wet one; according to the National Weather Service Montpelier received 9.9 inches of rain in May, 6.6 inches more than average.  June has also been wet, recording more than 1 inch above average so far this month.  In late June 1998, heavy rains had swollen the Mad River beyond its banks.  Rainfall of 4 inches or more in the mountains surrounding the Mad River caused the worst flooding since the Great Flood of 1927. 


At the time of sampling on Monday morning, the Mad River was high and declining.  After reaching a peak flow of 1,400 cfs (cubic feet per second) on Friday, the flow had declined to approximately 500 cfs despite some scattered but significant rain events over the weekend.  Median flow on this date is approximately 85 cfs.  With drier weather expected through this week, E.coli levels should remain low. 


As always, be aware that rain events that cause the river to become high and turbid result in higher E.coli levels and an increased risk to swimmers.  Swimmers are more likely to encounter safe swimming conditions in declining flow since pollutants are not actively being washed into the river by rain; Mad River Watch historical data shows that typically when river flow declines, E.coli levels begin to decline as well.  Conversely, rising water levels mean rising E.coli levels, so be aware that when a rainstorm that turns the Mad River’s waters brown with sediment there is also likely a rising risk to swimmers. 


For more information about E. coli and the Mad River Watch program, or to report a river-related illness call Friends of the Mad River at 496-9127.  Friends is a membership organization, and depends on the generous contributions of members to continue the Mad River Watch and other programs; learn how to become a member and donate securely online at


Thanks to this week’s Mad River Watch volunteers: Susy Deane, Mike Ware,  Fran & Ben Plewak, Kristen Sharpless, Kate Sudhoff and Ry Young.  Also, many thanks to Cyndee Button, our fabulous and hardworking volunteer Lab Coordinator.

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