Rain leads to spike in E. coli

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA)- A riverkeeper said the French Broad River experienced an “E. Coli-pocalypse” after rains earlier this week.

Local environmental group MountainTrue tested sites Wednesday. More than 90 percent were found to have elevated levels of the bacteria.

Danielle Lounsbury, who lives in the Asheville area, said she and her family often come to the French Broad River at the Bent Creek River Park.

“We swim,” she said. “We play.”

She said she was surprised when 7 News told her that the area was found to have nearly 39 times the EPA’s acceptable level for E. Coli Wednesday.

“We haven’t really gone swimming yet, so you coming and telling us that might prevent us from going in the water,” she said.

All but two of the 26 creeks, rivers, and lakes tested earlier this week had elevated levels of E. Coli. The highest spot was 47 times the acceptable limit.

“The results on Wednesday, they were absolutely abysmal,” said Karim Olaehea, who is the communications director for MountainTrue.

The group said the results were so high because of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, which then washed E. Coli into waterways from sources such as septic tanks and farms.

“You see it kind of manifest as kind of GI problems,” said Anna Alsobrook, who is the watershed outreach coordinator for MountainTrue. “Sometimes if you get it in an open wound, it might get infected. Or if you can it in your nose and ears, you tend to have sinus infections.”

The rain also kicked up the bacteria that nestles on the bottoms of bodies of water.

“It’s been raining, so it’s a bit muddy, and that’s per usual,” Lounsbury said. “We didn’t expect anything like that.”

The E. Coli levels are expected to drop as time passes. According to MountainTrue, people need to use their judgement when deciding what levels of risk they want to take.

“Go out there, look at the water,” Olaehea said. “If you can see straight through the water, then there’s not a whole lot of solids that are being suspended, and that means there’s not a whole lot of bacteria in the water.”

You can monitor local swimming areas’ bacteria levels here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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