Heavy rains make Hooch a health risk

The Chattahoochee River is not a safe place for humans after it rains. Regional sewer systems were designed to overflow after heavy rains and discharge raw sewage into local waterways.

After last weekend’s downpour, the number of colonies of the E. coli bacteria shot up to 37 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limit. E. coli causes pink eye, eyes, nose and throat infections, fever, diarrhea, and if enough is ingested, death.

Every morning, someone from either the Upper Chattahoochee RiverKeeper or National Park Service scoops water samples from three different sites on Chattahoochee (Medlock Bridge, Johnson’s Ferry Road and Paces Ferry Road).

The EPA says any river that has more than 236 colonies of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water constitutes a high risk to human health, and that a person in direct contact with river water has a documented risk of getting sick.

Water samples taken at the Paces Ferry Road sampling site May 4 contained 8,642 colonies of E. coli per 100 milliliters. The next day, E. coli levels dropped to 4,123 at the same site — still 18 times higher than the threshold for safe levels.

For more information, go to http://ga2.er.usgs.gov/bacteria/??

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