BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Cahaba Riverkeeper conducts water quality testing every Thursday and publishes the results every Friday during the peak, recreational swim season.
The water quality is tested at 18 recreational access points along the Cahaba River from May through September from Leeds down to areas in BIbb County.
According to Cahaba Riverkeeper David Butler, approximately 400 samples are collected each year and he and a group of nine interns are primarily testing the E. Coli levels in the water.
“Anytime you come in contact with bacteria like that, it can create a number of different problems, [like] stomach issues,” Butler said. “In cases with compromised immune systems it can make people really sick and even cause death and so certainly we want people to be informed and make good choices about where they choose to swim and where they take their children.”
May 16 testing results were not ideal at two locations. The water tested from an access point of the Shades Creek area returned high levels of E. Coli and the Jemison Park site had moderately high levels of E. Coli.
“Shades Creek, we test at Elder Street, really that’s been bad for a couple years and we’ve been eliminating one problem after the other and just working our way back,” Butler said. “We’re looking forward to a day when that will be clean. And then, basically, everywhere south of [Highway] 280 has had its problems.”
Butler said there are several factors that can lead to high levels of E. Coli in the water, for example, heavy rain can wash animal waste into the river and also weaken septic systems or industrial discharge systems.
“You want to know what you’re swimming in, [testing] keeps people safe, healthy and also just makes people more aware,” Jillian Betts, an intern for the Cahaba Riverkeeper, said. “It’s mostly an education issue when it comes to people not knowing. So we’re providing this information to be able to educate people about what’s going on, on the waterways they’re using.