By LRWP Monitoring Outreach Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino
The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County run a volunteer pathogens monitoring program from May to September every Summer. On Thursdays we collect water quality samples at 6 non-bathing public access beach sites along the Raritan River, provide our samples to the Interstate Environmental Commission lab for analysis, and report the results for the public on Friday afternoons.
After weeks of dry conditions and intense heat we finally received 0.37 inches of rain Thursday morning just before our volunteer sampling. The “first flush” of rain after a dry spell typically washes a lot of muck off our land surfaces and into our waters, and we often see higher bacterial levels. This is the case this week for our August 11, 2022 samples, which show our most upstream and downstream sites exceeding the EPA federal quality standard for primary contact, indicated by the red frowns on the map and chart: Riverside Park (Piscataway) and 2nd Street Park (Perth Amboy). The “green smileys” represent the sites with pathogen levels that are below the standard for recreation: Rutgers Boathouse (New Brunswick), Ken Buchanan Waterfront Park (Edison), South Amboy Waterfront Park (South Amboy).
Suitable levels for primary contact should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL. Per the EPA, Pathogens/Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Possible sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. As always, if you choose to recreate on the Raritan this weekend, stay safe and please be sure to wash your hands!
Many thanks to our partners, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County and Interstate Environmental Commission, and to our great group of volunteers! See here for more information on our pathogens monitoring program.
Spotted two Great Blue Herons flying across the Raritan while we sampled at our Rutgers Boathouse site, Photo Credits: Andrew Gehman
While the group was monitoring at our Edison site, Frank Dahl spoke to a friendly local we often encounter cleaning up trash left behind at the docks, Photo Credits: Andrew Gehman
Genevieve Ehasz took the opportunity to collect goose poop samples for Farhenfeld Lab while the monitoring team was at the Ken Buchanan Boat Launch in Sayreville, Photo Credits: Andrew Gehman
Cristian Sanlatte volunteered to wade into our Perth Amboy site to collect data using our YSI monitoring instrument, Photo Credits: Andrew Gehman