In September of 2018, FODC was 1 of 10 in the nation (and the first ever West Virginian organization) to receive the EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving grant for a project aimed at monitoring and reducing fecal coliform levels in the Deckers Creek Watershed. The project has multiple facets, including:
- Collecting water samples to identify major sources of fecal coliform pollution.
- Working with a stormwater engineer to develop a comprehensive stormwater management plan.
- Educating the community on the Deckers Creek Watershed, its pollutants, and safe recreation.
- Enlisting the help of Citizen Scientists to aid in sample collection.
What Is Fecal Coliform?
Fecal coliform bacteria derives from the intestines of warm-blooded animals, and can potentially include E. coli. Not all fecal coliform or E. coli strains are dangerous, but high levels do indicate the potential presence of other harmful pathogens. This is not only a health risk for the public, but also for aquatic life because these bacteria deplete oxygen in water needed by fish and macroinvertebrates. Sources of fecal coliform include combined sewage overflows (CSOs), outdated wastewater treatment facilities, and illegal straight pipes.
In the first 12 months of the bacteriological monitoring project, FODC collected over 300 samples and analyzed each one for E. coli levels. Results have shown that E. coli concentrations are affected by precipitation and seasonal changes. Several problem areas within the watershed have been identified, and FODC is working to further pinpoint the sources of these “hot spots.” Other sites such as the popular Deckers Creek “Gorge” have passed as safe for recreation, but will continue to be monitored monthly.
To see the most recent results of our E coli testing, visit TheSwimGuide.org. This website displays water quality data at popular recreation sites across the US.
The Next Step Toward Reducing Fecal Coliform Impacts
In the second phase of the project, FODC will work with a stormwater engineer to create a plan to reduce stormwater and the discharge rates of CSOs. FODC has been working closely with the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) throughout this project and will continue to welcome the input of MUB and other stakeholders. Once the plan is developed, FODC will seek funding to implement this remediation.
What Can You Do to Help?
Reduce your wastewater and stormwater contributions to your local wastewater treatment facility -- Use less water and limit the amount of stormwater flowing from your home. One way to accomplish this is by attending one of our Rain Barrel Workshops, hosted each Spring. Dates will be posted on our events page.
Another important thing homeowners can do is make sure that their septic systems are working properly. Check out this informational brochure prepared by the WVU Department of Technology Education: The Care and Feeding of Your Septic Tank.