Raritan Pathogen Results for 10.6.2022

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 six (6) non-bathing public access beach sites along the Raritan River, provide our samples to the Interstate Environmental Commission for analysis in their laboratory, and report the results to the public on Friday afternoons. Our goal in reporting these results is to give area residents an understanding of potential health risks related to primary contact (touching) the water during water based recreation.

Our lab results for our final water quality sampling session of the season on October 6, 2022 indicate Enterococcus bacteria levels exceeding the EPA federal water quality standard of 104 cfu/100mL at ALL of our Lower Raritan sites. This is not surprising given the abundance of rainfall earlier in the week. We received as much as 4.5 inches of rain in some parts of the watershed from October 1-5. We know that the more rain that falls on the land, washing waste off impervious surfaces and into the waters, the higher the Enterococci pathogens counts in our water quality samples. And at our Perth Amboy Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) site we observed point source sanitary waste flows directly into the River, with abundant pulverized toilet paper floating in the water.

Our problem sites for October 6, indicated by red frowns on the map and chart, include: Riverside Park (Piscataway), Rutgers Boathouse (New Brunswick), Edison Boat Ramp and Ken Buchanan Waterfront Park (Edison), South Amboy Waterfront Park (South Amboy), and 2nd Street Park (Perth Amboy).

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. If you choose to recreate on the Raritan, please do so safely and be sure to wash thoroughly after all activities!

That’s a wrap for our Summer 2022 Pathogens Monitoring Program! Special thanks to our partners Michele Bakacs at Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Samantha Wilder and Evelyn Powers the Interstate Environmental Commission, and Nicole Fahrenfeld, Cristian Sanlatte, and Genevieve Ehasz with the Fahrenfeld Lab at Rutgers University. And extra special thanks to our amazing team of volunteers: Andrew Gehman, Frank Dahl, Julisa Collado, and Doreen Camardi.

A great picture of the team at the Rutgers Boat Dock during our last monitoring run this season.

Pictured left to right: Heather Fenyk, Jocelyn Palomino, Julisa Collado and Frank Dahl.

Photo Credit: Andrew Gehman

Andrew Gehman observes birds flying by at our Edison Site, Photo Credits: Jocelyn Palomino

While we were sampling at the Ken Buchanan Waterfront Park, we shared the dock with a local man who had just caught a 27-inch striped bass, Photo Credits: Jocelyn Palomino

With an active discharge coming from the CSO at Perth Amboy’s 2nd St. Park, the water was filled with pulverized toilet paper along with an overwhelming odor after the heavy rainfall from the week, Photo Credits: Jocelyn Palomino