Unsafe Levels of E. coli detected in the Lower American River may be due to Homeless Camps
State regulators claim that levels of E. coli bacteria found in the lower American River exceed the federal threshold for safe recreational use, in part due to human waste from homeless camps. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has considered adding the bacteria to a list of pollutants that make the lower American River a federally designated impaired water body. A state board is expected to sign off on the decision later this year and ask for final approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State regulators claim that they’re not aware of anyone who has been sickened by E. coli in the lower American River, but nearly a decade of test data indicates the risk of exposure. Ron Stork of Friends of the River, California’s only statewide river conservation organization, stated:
It should give people some discomfort about using the water – it’s not good
The problem with E. coli is that it can sicken and even kill people who swim in or drink contaminated water. According to a report, test results from 2007 to 2014 found average levels of E. coli at three sites that were higher than the EPA standard, and were beyond the recommended level for recreation. The three sites are near downtown Sacramento, in the westernmost part of the American River Parkway, where the highest concentrations of homeless camps are set up. Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, claims that the board is still investigating the exact causes of E. coli pollution, but clearly it comes from animal and human waste, including from the homeless camps along the lower American River between the Nimbus Dam and the Sacramento River. According to Altevogt, the lower American River doesn’t receive any sewer discharge, so the likely sources of the E. coli are homeless campers, recreational users of the river and birds. This news is certainly surprising, but hopefully the water quality control boards are able to contain lower the unsafe amounts E. coli.