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Rain Elevates Bacterial Counts in Mad River
By: Corrie (friendv3) 2016.08.23

With crisp fall temperatures in the air, Friends of the Mad River’s Mad River Watch (MRW) Program results from the sixth and final round of water sampling show four sites with unfavorable swimming conditions as of Monday morning. Tremblay Road Pines and Meadow Road bridge in Waitsfield as well as the Village swim area and Ward Access in Moretown were well over the DOH/EPA accepted “swimmable” E. coli level of 235 colonies per 100 ML of water. It is estimated that at the level of 235 colonies E.coli per 100 ML water, approximately 8 out of every 1,000 swimmers are likely to contract a water borne illness related to fecal contamination.

After five sampling days without substantial rain, this is the first of the season that captured the impacts on the water quality of stormwater running off the landscape. Rains carry sediments, nutrients, and pathogens from the land into the river and streams, increasing E. coli levels (among other pollutant levels). During dry weather, the pollutants don’t reach waterways. After an overnight rain, the flow condition of the Mad River at the time of sampling Monday morning was high and had just started declining (HD), flowing at 264 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the USGS flow gage in Moretown. All four E. coli violations occurred in lower half of the watershed, consistent with historical trends that the lower watershed is more impaired for E. coli. Yet, it is also possible that pollutants from the upper watershed had already moved downstream and weren’t captured in our mid-morning sampling. The median for this date is 76 cfs.

Friends of the Mad River’s E. coli sampling results are only a snapshot in time intended to give you a sense of the conditions that lead to high pathogen levels in the water so you can be informed. This weekend looks to be a wet one, so you and your good judgement are your best protector - use common sense and don't swim for at least 24 hours after a rain.

Many thanks to this week’s Mad River Watch volunteers: Richard Czaplinski, Susy Deane, Annie & Jula Fender, Annie & Hazel Plewak, Kinny Perot, Fran & Gary Plewak, and Michael Ware. Thanks to Susanne and George Schaefer who drove water samples to the DEC’s lab in Burlington for phosphorus, nitrogen, and turbidity analysis and to Sally Boudreau for posting data at ten swimholes across the watershed. The Mad River Watch Program would not be possible without these dedicated volunteers! Thanks also to Paula Baldwin for an excellent first year at the helm of FMR’s lab!

The river connects our Mad River Valley community and its clean water is a measure of our success as stewards of the land. For more information about E. coli and the Mad River Watch program and to view our most recent complete data report please visit the Friends of the Mad River website at Results are also available on Facebook (“Friends of the Mad River”) and on sign posts at swimholes across the Valley. Thanks to our members who make the Mad River Watch Program possible for the benefit of the whole watershed community!

If you appreciate the information we provide, please consider becoming a member or donating here.

August 22, 2016 data available here.

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