COLUMBIA, SC Parts of the lower Saluda and Congaree Rivers remain unsafe for swimming following a Thursday advisory after more laboratory tests Friday showed pollution levels remain elevated, according to the Congaree Riverkeeper.
Advisories against swimming are still in effect from below Saluda Shoals Park near Irmo to the Blossom Street bridge in Columbia, riverkeeper Bill Stangler said Friday afternoon. Advisories against swimming will remain in effect until next week, he said.
Routine tests sanctioned by a coalition of governments and environmental groups earlier this week showed elevated levels at five spots on the two rivers – but follow-up tests Friday showed that not all of the bacteria levels had dropped to amounts considered safe for swimming, Stangler said.
Pollution levels remain elevated at an Interstate 20 site on the Saluda, as well as at two sites near Riverbanks Zoo.
Stangler said the recent results are a concern because he had expected bacteria pollution to clear up. The riverkeeper group said it figured the pollution was from runoff caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irma on Monday, but now Stangler is questioning whether it came from another source.
“This is a situation that we need to figure out,’’ he said.
Several sewage plants are on the Saluda River, which flows into the Congaree below Riverbanks Zoo. Both rivers are popular recreation spots in Columbia.
Elevated bacteria can sicken people who come in contact with the water. Advisories warn against swimming, wading, tubing or paddling in areas where the advisories were issued.
This week’s advisories are the most issued since the coalition of governments and environmental groups began sampling water quality on the Saluda and Congaree in June, said Stangler, whose organization heads the sampling.
A Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman said his agency is part of the coalition testing the water and the public should follow the advisory Stangler issued.
For a map of the areas where elevated bacteria levels were found, go to http://howsmyscriver.org/saluda.