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 along the Raritan River. We collect water quality samples at non-bathing public access beach sites, provide our samples to the Interstate Environmental Commission for analysis in their laboratory, and report the results to the public on Friday afternoons.
This week we experienced severely heavy air pollution in the Northeast due to the wildfires happening in Canada. The Air Quality Index (AQI) almost reached 400 in several areas of New Jersey, becoming one of the worst smoke outbreaks the Northeast has seen in the last two decades.
Our lab results for water quality samples taken on June 8, 2023 show that Enterococcus bacteria levels DO NOT exceed the EPA federal water quality standard at any of our sites this week. Green smiles on the chart and map indicate sites with bacteria levels safe for recreation which includes all of our sites this week: 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. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. 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.
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. Even though our results show water quality levels are safe for recreation this week, please wash thoroughly after all activities if you choose to recreate on the Raritan!
Special thanks to our monitoring team this week for enduring the weather conditions to provide the community with the water quality results to make the appropriate decisions regarding their recreational plans for the weekend: Colleen Georges, Rose Lawless, Sheyla Casco, and Genevieve Ehasz with the Fahrenfeld Lab.
While exploring at our Piscataway site, Rose Lawless spotted Garlic Mustard, a non-native plant. Photo Credit: Rose Lawless
From the Rutgers boat dock, we could see the trees along the Raritan surrounded by smoke from the Canadian wildfires, Photo Credit: Rose Lawless
A great blue heron surfing on the debris while we collected samples at the Edison Boat Launch, Photo Credit: Rose Lawless
A great image of the team at our Sayreville site with what used to be a coal power plant pictured behind us, Photo Credit: Rose Lawless
Genevieve decided to wade in as we finished up the day in Perth Amboy by 2nd. Street Park, Photo Credit: Rose Lawless