We’d like to spread the word that StreamWatch, one of RRBC’s partners in the Moores Creek Bacterial Implementation Project, has been sampling for evidence of bacteria contamination at four sites in the Moores Creek watershed in Charlottesville and Albemarle since July 2012. In addition, StreamWatch is also sampling six other sites in the upper watershed and along the main stem of the Rivanna River. This sampling is in addition to regular sampling along the main stem and in Moores Creek being performed by VA Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ).
Bacteria levels are one indicator used to determine if water is safe for swimming or other recreation. Water samples are tested for the presence of fecal bacteria, which are bacteria found in the intestines and fecal matter of mammals. High counts of bacteria in a stream indicate that there is an elevated risk of illness from pathogenic organisms.
You can now go to the StreamWatch website for a map and table of sites and their monthly bacteria scores. Bacteria scores reflect the number of E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water. The maximum allowable amount of bacteria (specifically Escherichia coli or E. Coli) in a single sample of water is 235 colonies per 100 milliliters. This standard is set by the VA DEQ.
Unlike some other kinds of water quality sampling, each bacteria sample provides an instantaneous snapshot of the presence of E. coli but cannot tell us whether this is normal for the stream at this location. VA DEQ performs monthly or bi-monthly sampling to look for trends, specifically a certain number of exceedances of the allowable threshold.
If a certain sampling site shows high levels one month, but not the next (or vice versa), it is important to know that the sample data only reflects the conditions on that sampling date. But you can determine, but assessing these data over time, whether certain locations are prone to high levels of bacteria.
Unfortunately, the main stem of the Rivanna River and a stretch of Moores Creek have been found by VA DEQ to fail the water quality standard in Virginia for bacteria. Fortunately, RRBC was able to secure funding for partner organizations (Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, StreamWatch, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission) to help publicize the issues of excessive bacteria and to help fund cost-share dollars for homeowners and landowners for activities that will reduce these unacceptable levels in Moores Creek.
Funding is available to help farmers keep livestock out of streams; to help homeowners repair or replace failing septic systems; and to help pet owners properly dispose of pet waste. Visit the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District website for details. Please spread the word to your friends and neighbors about these resources!