In 2017, Friends of the Cheat developed a new water quality monitoring program to monitor bacteria levels in the water at several popular public Cheat River access locations. The program monitors for E. coli, which is naturally found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. If found in higher concentrations, it may be an indicator of fecal contamination. Common sources of E. coli include faulty septic systems or sewage systems, and fecal matter from animals and pets.
This program was developed in response to increased concern about sewage pollution from failing municipal sanitary sewers and private homes (read more, Preston County Sewer Issues, Into the Canyon, Winter 2017). Since 2017, Friends of the Cheat has analyzed hundreds of water samples. Sampling occurs biweekly from May – August and monthly from September – April. You can check out the latest results at www.theswimguide.org and search for “Cheat” or view the map of all Swim Guide sites.
FOC regularly samples ten public river access sites: Holly Meadows access point on the Cheat River Water Trail, Hannahsville Ford on the Cheat River Water Trail, Riverview Lounge in Rowlesburg, Rowlesburg Park (upper and lower), the Cheat Narrows (upper and lower), the Cheat River Festival Grounds access point for the Cheat Canyon, Jenkinsburg Bridge Canyon takeout, and Cheat Lake Millstone Point Beach.
Because of these sampling efforts, Friends of the Cheat has been able to confidently identify problem areas within the Cheat River watershed in regards to total coliform and E.coli, particularly two popular river access sites along the Cheat River Water Trail. One access site, Rowlesburg Park Lower, is directly downstream of a CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) pipe, and has been closed. The other site, Holly Meadows, often surpasses the threshold for E.coli (410 cfu) although the source of E.coli has not been determined. FOC will continue to use the bacteriological monitoring program to investigate the source of E.coli contamination for the Holly Meadows access site. In days following high precipitation– 0.5” of rain and above–the Holly Meadows river access site is much more likely to be over the threshold level of E.coli. Play it safe by avoiding river recreation directly after or during high rain events–this will help with avoiding dangerous flows as well.
Contact Monitoring Coordinator Madison Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help with our bacteriological monitoring program.