Citizen Scientists Look for Sources of Contamination

June, 2017
Citizen Science For Clean Water

Since 2005, Humboldt Baykeeper’s Citizen Water Monitoring Program has sampled streams from Little River to Elk River.  In 2015, the U.S. EPA designated six creeks as “impaired” by bacteria, based on our data. Since then, we have been working with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and Humboldt County Public Health Lab to identify sources using geneticanalysis. This method will pinpoint the source animals and will measure the fraction in each sample that comes from humans, cattle, dogs, birds, and other wildlife. After four sampling events in 2016, we are waiting for the results of the genetic analysis, which Humboldt County Public Health Lab is perfecting. Below is a chart displaying the E. coli levels from March 10, 2016.

What Is E. coli?

E. coli is a type of bacteria that lives in the guts of warm-blooded animals. It is an indicator of fecal bacteria and viruses that can cause illness when ingested in food or water. People can be exposed to it by drinking contaminated water or through contact with polluted water when swimming, surfing, etc. You can prevent exposure by avoiding contact with streams, bay, and ocean for 24-48 hours after storms.