The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board conducted 10 tests at Sacramento’s Tiscornia Beach from January 15 through March 15, and 7 of those tests recorded E. coli levels far higher than what federal regulators recommend.
The beach, where the American River meets the Sacramento River, is a popular place for beachgoers to catch some sun and swim in an easily accessible waterway near Sacramento. Now, people might think twice about visiting the site.
In February, officials recorded that the E. Coli levels at the beach were seven times the threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
E. Coli bacteria found in water is typically an indicator that some sort of fecal pollution has been placed in the water, typically from pets, livestock and wildlife. It could also be cause by some sort of sewage leakage. While E. Coli can certainly cause swimmers to get sick, it’s rare. Out of the more than 700 subspecies of E. Coli that exist, only a small number can cause illness in humans.
The water board began their weekly testing of the American River this year, examining nine sites on the American River. All but two spots – Sutter’s Landing and Camp Pollack – recorded the dangerously high E. Coli levels.
It’s unclear where this contamination of bacteria is coming from. Starting this summer, officials will begin to implement DNA testing at the water sites to determine the source of the E. Coli. The testing will find out what percentage of the bacteria is from human or animals and will also determine if the water contains salmonella or Hepatitis.
There are many theories as to why the E. Coli sits in the water. It could be sewage leakage. It could be runoff from livestock remains. It could be the homeless encampments along the rivers. Either way, county officials plan to keep the beach and other waterways accessible for now, with posted signs of the dangers.
As for us, we’re going to choose another place to swim.