James River Association to issue report on bacteria levels

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Fishing and boating are the sorts of things you do on the river on a hot, sunny day. And when the water’s up from rain like we’ve seen lately, you need to give some thought about going out there.

“When you go out and if you see that really just chocolatey, milky colored water and you see big waves in places where you’re not used to seeing them, yeah, that’s a time to probably put the boat back in the shed and come out at a better time,” advises Rob Campbell, the Upper James Community Conservationist for the James River Association.

It’s not just waves to think about; high waters can elevate levels of bacteria in the water, running off from septic fields upstream and, in bigger floods, overflowing sewage systems.

But when it’s not elevated, the story is a much happier one.

“Eighty-three percent of the time, the James River is below our E coli standard," Campbell says. "And that’s even in our more urban areas, down toward Richmond, as well as in our more pristine areas in the upper James.”

Those are figures coming from five years of data collected up and down the river, and being released in detail in a report from the James River Association.

“It tells a much better story than it does a worse story," Campbell says. "We tend find much lower levels of E coli than anybody would have expected most times of the year.”

And they say that means being on the James River is safer than ever.

“The James is an exceptionally safe place to be," says
Campbell. "And a fun place too.”