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Lauren Donovan watches her 4-year-old daughter, Madeline, as she swims in the West River, near its confluence of the Rock River in Newfane.

BRATTLEBORO >> The Southeastern Vermont Watershed Alliance began its monitoring program for the summer of 2016 on Wednesday, June 22.

Volunteers will be collecting samples from 30 sites on eight rivers and streams every other week through the end of August. This year, there will be sites on the West River, Rock River, North Branch Ball Mountain Brook, Williams River (including South Branch and Middle Branch), Saxtons River, Sacketts Brook, and Whetstone Brook.

Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, is a bacterium that is found in the guts of all warm blooded animals, including humans. Most E. coli will not make a person sick, but sometimes they can become pathogenic which means they can cause illness. Additionally, the presence of E. coli in waters acts as an indicator for the presence of other, more difficult to test for pathogens. The results are published in order to help everyone make informed decisions about recreating in Vermont's waters.

The days leading up to June 22 were quite dry and only a few sites tested above the "suitability for swimming" standard set by the State of Vermont and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Often, high bacteria levels are a result of heavy rains and the day before we tested was generally pretty dry with only some scattered sprinkles. Because heavy rains can cause spikes in bacteria, it is generally recommended to wait 24 to 48 hours after a significant rainfall to resume swimming in lakes and streams.

Along the West River, E. coli levels ranged between 56 per 100mL in Londonderry and 54 at Milk House Meadows in Brattleboro. The highest reading along the West River was 138 at Rowes Bridge in South Londonderry, well below the Vermont and EPA "suitability" rating of 235 per 100mL.


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The North Branch Brook had readings of 51 at Pikes Falls swimming hole in Jamaica and 38 in the Rock River in the vicinity of Indian Love Call.

The Whetstone Brook ranged between 142 at Meadowbrook Road, with a high reading of 366 at the Brattleboro Farmers Market.

The Williams River had two sampling sites well about the "suitability" rating, at 727 at the Rainbow Rock swimming hole and 1,733 below the Chester Waste Water Treatment Facility. All sites along the South and Middle Branches of the Williams River tested below the rating, as did the Saxtons River.

The two sites on Sacketts Brook in Putney both tested above the "suitability" rating at 2,420 at the end of Mill Street and 1,204 above the Interstate 91 bridge.

SeVWA's water quality monitoring program is supported by SeVWA volunteers, members and donors, including the Londonderry Conservation Commission, Robert Fritz, Inc, Rock River Preservation, Elaine Lambert Living Trust, State of VT Department of Environmental Conservation's LaRosa Environmental Testing Laboratory, & Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC).

E. coli results charts and accompanying commentaries will appear at www.ibrattleboro.com (nature section) every two weeks through the monitoring season. For more information about SeVWA's monitoring program sites and results and other Connecticut River watershed water quality and recreational information, please visit www.ctriver.us.