E. coli, a bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, can enter our waterways through agricultural runoff, wildlife, and leaking septic/sewer systems. Human risk of getting sick from recreating in open water increases as E. coli concentration increases and young people and people with a compromised immune system are at greater risk. E.coli itself can cause illnesses such as "swimmer's ear", upset stomach, and diarrhea, and E.coli can also indicate the presence of other more harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella and Giardia.
Pearl Riverkeeper volunteers conducted 56 E.coli tests during 14 weeks in May through August at Natchez Trace Overlook, Old Trace Park, Lakeshore Park and Pelahatchie Bay Fishing Pier. Results were posted each Friday on the Pearl Riverkeeper website, Swim Guide and through text alerts. A location was marked Green if the test met EPA water quality standards or marked Red if the test exceeded the standard. We issued 9 "high E.coli" alerts over the 14 weeks of summer. Read the full results.
What the data shows on the whole is that, in general, these Ross Barnett Reservoir locations are quite safe to swim. Heavy rains in the area had great impact on local water quality. Please use caution immediately after rainstorms as sewer overflows, failing septic and stormwater runoff can contain high levels of bacteria.
The state of Mississippi has over 26,000 miles of perennial streams and rivers. For the state's 2016 Water Quality Assessment, MDEQ assessed only 11% of our waterways and stated that the status of water quality on the remaining 89% (23,568 miles) is unknown. Citizen science from our certified water quality monitors can help fill in the gaps and provide early detection of water quality issues in areas not actively monitored.
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Thank you to all of our volunteers, supporters, Swim Guide, MDEQ and Global Water Watch for making this inaugural year of Swim Guide a huge success!
Pearl Riverkeeper is a licensed member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water.