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French Broad River Keeper Water Sampling

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15 Volunteers heeded the cyber call of the French Broad River Keeper, Hartwell Carson, to help sample water for bacteria in the watershed.

They met in a parking lot on Tunnel Road, next to Ross Creek, which flows into Kenilworth Lake, and then into the Swannoah River above Sweeten Creek. Raging in age from 8 to 80, new to the area and even new to the USA, some had experience in biology, and some came just to see what was happening, they were dispatched and scattered in teams from Black Mountain to Candler on this day.

Sixty samples were taken from the Swannanoa River, Ross Creek, Sweeten Creek, Gashes Creek, and Hominy Creek. The samples have to be kept cool, and then are transferred to plates for incubation later. A simplified system avoids the need for microscopes. Different organisms show up as different colored dots on the plates in about 30 hours.

The River Keeper has more sampling events coming up this spring if you are interested in helping monitor water quality here in Asheville. Keep an eye out on his website for more information.

UPDATE… Samples Incubated

After sitting in an incubator for 30 hours, the samples were sorted and the growth counted. Escherichia Coli (E-Coli) samples show up as blue dots and Coliform bacteria are red. Both of these organisms are naturally-occurring by-products of, well, poop. Obviously, some will end up in water. The goal here is to find out how many do end up in the water, and, if possible, from what source.

For instance, a high count could indicate a number of causes such as “straight piping” of sewage, bypassing sewer lines; runoff from agricultural operations; certain industrial activities; or a break in a sewer line. The interesting thing is, water runs downhill. So if you get a low reading at one point, and higher ones downstream, it is a logical conclusion the contamination is between the two points.

There were several high readings from the samples. Other volunteers will be sent out to re-check the locations, and other teams will try to pinpoint the origin of the bacteria by taking samples at each outfall or tributary. Eventually, with luck, the source can be found.