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High levels of E. coli found in two local rivers

Created: 01/03/2014 6:31 PM
By: Ashley McElroy, KOB Eyewitness News 4

We all know rivers can be teeming with bacteria, but the thought of swimming with E. coli bacteria is just plain nasty.

Researchers are taking a dip into the San Juan and Animas Rivers, collecting water samples to learn more about potentially dangerous bacteria.

One year into their study, they've uncovered a pattern that shows E. coli bacteria can really spike during monsoon season.

"So when you're having those big storm events all this water is rushing to the river in one day, so we've seen the bacteria higher those days," said Melissa May from the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District.

The researchers from the soil and water conservation district tested the rivers at several locations every week or two, for eight months.

During the rainy monsoon summer months, E. coli levels could be two or three times higher than what's considered safe.

One surprising thing they found is a lot of the e coli is coming from humans instead of animals.

They were expecting the higher results to come from birds.

"There have been two or three other studies in New Mexico and water fowl were always the number one source there," said May.

So should people who live and play near these waters be worried? Not necessarily.

"it's not a guarantee that that strain is going to be one that'll get you sick, but there is an increased risk," said May.

For the next year, researchers will fact-check their findings, taking new samples to see if the cycle repeats itself.

The second round of testing starts in April. 


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