Watershed Alliance finds contaminated water in recreational streams

In August the Watershed Alliance of Adams County found that the majority of Adams County streams it tested were contaminated with E.coli at levels exceeding those recommended for recreational use by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).

Supported by a grant from the South Mountain Partnership, the Watershed Alliance tested twenty-one sites on ten Adams County streams five times during August and found that with the exception of four sites, every location tested was contaminated by E.coli at levels exceeding those recommended by the The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP) for recreational use. Recreational uses include wading, swimming, and fishing.

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“Places like Laurel Lake where public swimming is encouraged are required to test the water to make sure it isn’t overly contaminated,” said Cliff Frost, leader of the Watershed Alliance’s pathogen-testing initiative. “However, Adams County has many streams where people like to wade, fish, or swim, and most of these places aren’t tested regularly for pathogen indicators. We wanted to take a look at those stream locations to see if they were safe for recreation. We were surprised to find that most of them, at least last August, were not.”

The results of the Watershed Alliance study will be forwarded to the PADEP for review. “Our hope is that the PADEP will use our findings to inform future water-testing and treatment initiatives,” said Frost.

Many common animal pathogens are invisible to the eye, but can cause sickness in humans, sometimes even death. Generally, these pathogens come from inside the digestive systems of animals such as humans, cows, and deer. They get into the water mainly through feces—for example, when household septic systems fail or when farm animals are permitted to enter streams.

The usual way people become infected with these pathogens is by ingesting contaminated water. However, some pathogens can enter the bloodstream through cuts or sores on the skin. People may be infected from swimming in a polluted river or lake, especially during warm months.

The best way to avoid getting sick from contaminated water is to stay out of it, especially if you have cuts or open sores on your skin. If you do choose to enter the water, avoid getting water in your mouth, be sure to shower after you swim, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you eat.

For more information on this project, including locations sampled, please see this report:

The Watershed Alliance’s pathogen-testing project was financed in part by a grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. The grant was awarded through the South Mountain Partnership, with management oversight by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The Watershed Alliance of Adams County is a partner of the South Mountain Partnership, an alliance of organizations working to preserve and enhance the cultural and natural assets of the South Mountain Landscape in Central Pennsylvania. To learn more about the South Mountain Partnership, visit SouthMountainPartnership.org.

The Watershed Alliance of Adams County is a member-supported nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing and protecting the water resources of Adams County. For more information about the Watershed Alliance and its pathogen-testing initiative, visit AdamsWatersheds.org.

This Watershed Alliance’s pathogen-testing project was also supported by the Adams County Conservation District, Adams County Trout Unlimited, Friends of Toms Creek, and more than a dozen volunteers from the local community.

Analysis of samples was carried out by LABS, Inc., in New Oxford.

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Rick Moyer
Rick Moyer
1 year ago

Growing up I remember sharing bottled soda, becoming “Blood Brothers” with my friends, drinking out of a garden hose & hunting for crawfish in creeks without needing a Hazmat suit. I’m glad that I’m old.

Bill Morgan
Bill Morgan
1 year ago

Not much you can do about animals in the water except fence the banks. Would be nice if septic systems were inspected regularly

Anne
Anne
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Morgan

Click on the link in the article. It gives you the names of the waterways and the statistics. Also there is a map of them.

David M. McGlaughlin
David M. McGlaughlin
1 year ago

What good does this story do if you don’t finish it by identifying the polluted streams? And further, what penalties and remedies will take place? Telling me to stay out of the water is not enough. How about fixing the problem?

Margaret Anne Berry
Margaret Anne Berry
1 year ago

The names of the water bodies and degree of pollution is listed. You have to click on the link provided. There is also a map.

James Elliot
James Elliot
1 year ago

It would be nice to have the contaminated creeks listed so that one may know what waters to stay away from.

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