Swimming from the white sandbars on the Satilla is a favorite pastime on a hot summer’s day. Although, with over 30 inches of rainfall in the past three months, swimmers may have been hard pressed to find a sandbar that wasn’t underwater. Nevertheless, Satilla Riverkeeper and volunteers have been testing water quality at public landings along the Satilla and sharing results via Swim Guide. With large amounts of rainfall and flooded riverbanks, a variety of water quality threats can arise, including overflowing stormwater systems, agricultural runoff, and flooded septic fields.
Bacteria levels exceeded levels safe for swimming once this summer at Ava Lightsey Landing, Warner’s Landing, and Highway 301 Landing, and bacteria levels were at the limit once at Jamestown Landing.
“I think it’s great to get out and swim and play in the Satilla,” Laura Early, Satilla Riverkeeper said. “People should be aware of the water quality before they take the plunge, and the Swim Guide app is a quick, easy way to do that.”
Swim Guide is a free smartphone app for iPhone® and Android (also available on the web). On the Satilla River, Swim Guide helps you find the closest swim spot, know if the water quality is safe for swimming, and share it with your friends and family. Users are also able to upload photos, to share real-time conditions at the site. Through Swim Guide, the Satilla Riverkeeper provides information about safety for recreational contact with the water.
The Satilla Riverkeeper monitors water quality at ten recreational sites on the Satilla River through the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream volunteer monitoring program. Water samples are taken monthly between May and October and are tested for E. coli bacteria. Results are immediately posted Swim Guide.
On Swim Guide, a beach is marked GREEN when the results meet the EPA’s E. coli standard for human recreation (a one-time measurement that is equal to or less than 235 cfu/100 ml). A beach is marked RED when results exceed those standards (a one-time measurement that is equal to or more than 235 cfu/100 ml). A beach is marked GREY when reliable information is not available.
E. coli is indicative of fecal contamination from warm-blooded animals including wildlife, humans, pets, and livestock. While infections from E. coli are rare, viral and other pathogens that accompany the fecal contamination indicated by the presence of E. coli can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal issues. The presence of E. coli in streams is generally caused by agricultural runoff of animal waste, faulty septic systems, leaking sewer pipes, sewage spills, or decaying wildlife. On Labor Day weekend, for example, volunteers discovered a deer carcass at the Highway 301 landing on the Satilla River.
Satilla Riverkeeper and volunteers will continue to monitor water quality through October 2018, and will resume the program again in May 2019.