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Fecal bacteria found at high levels in Raritan River, Rutgers researchers say

<p>Fecal bacteria can come from a variety of sources, including Canada geese waste.</p>

Fecal bacteria can come from a variety of sources, including Canada geese waste.

Rutgers researchers have found a high level of fecal bacteria in the Raritan River, a body of water people regularly use for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, catching bait fish, crabbing, wading and swimming, said Michele Bacs in an email with The Daily Targum. 

“Enterococci (fecal bacteria) levels should not exceed the water quality standard of 104 (colony forming units) per 100 milliliters of water for a single sample. Enterococci levels at the six sites ranged from less than 10 to more than 6,000, and analysis of the data is underway. A 30-day average from Aug. 15 to Sept. 12 ranged from 156 to 960 — far above what government agencies consider safe for swimming, which is no more than 30,” Bacs said of the Raritan River’s results. 

Fecal bacteria can come from a variety of sources, including stormwater runoff, combined sewer overflows, improperly functioning sewer systems, pet waste, Canada geese waste, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses and runoff from manure storage areas, Bacs said. 

The bacteria can have harmful effects on humans, and since this was the first large-scale study of the bacteria’s prevalence in the body of water along the Rutgers—New Brunswick campus, it is possible that people in the past have received these effects not knowing what was in the water they were using, Bacs said. 

“When it rains, enterococci levels in the lower Raritan River increase. And while enterococci are usually not considered harmful to humans, they indicate that other disease-causing agents such as viruses, bacteria and protozoa may be in the water. These microbes can cause skin and eye infections and make people sick,” Bacs said.

The test results were taken in at six sites along the Raritan River, including a site at Rutgers Class of 1914 Boathouse in New Brunswick and Riverside Park in Piscataway, according to an article by the Courier News. 

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