COLUMBIA, SC People are being warning against swimming on parts of the Congaree and lower Saluda rivers after laboratory tests found elevated bacteria counts in the water.
Five spots on the rivers between Saluda Shoals Park and the Rosewood Drive boat landing were found to have bacteria levels above the safe swimming standard, according to a coalition of environmental groups and governments that are jointly checking water quality.
The coalition advises against swimming, wading, tubing or paddling in areas where the advisories were issued. This week’s advisories are the most issued by the organization since it began sampling in June, said Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler, whose organization heads the sampling.
Stangler said runoff associated with hurricane-driven rains likely caused the spike in bacteria pollution. The remnants of Hurricane Irma swept through South Carolina on Monday. Stangler said more tests are being run and results will be released Friday to determine if bacteria levels have dropped enough to make swimming safe.
Elevated bacteria counts can sicken people who come in contact with the water.
“This is a big jump, but not completely unexpected,’’ Stangler said. “We knew we had rainfall earlier in the week. This is certainly a change from what we had seen earlier in the summer.’’
The lower Saluda River flows from the Lake Murray dam to below Riverbanks Zoo, where it runs into the Congaree River. The advisories do not include the upper end of the lower Saluda above Saluda Shoals park.
For a map of the areas where elevated bacteria levels were found, go to http://howsmyscriver.org/saluda.
Officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control were not immediately available for comment. DHEC is a partner in the monitoring effort.