Progress seen in Wicomico River cleanup efforts

The Wicomico Creekwatchers Report for 2014, released this week, indicated samples of fecal enterococci bacteria are high enough to make swimming risky, and the bacteria are worse than in the past two years.

Overall, though, results of the annual report were hopeful, showing lower levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the river.

Mayor Jim Ireton, at the press conference to announce the results of the report Monday, credited the lower levels to farmers, state officials, use of rain barrels and ardent environmentalists.

Ways to control the bacterial, Ireton said, include picking up pet waste,  fixing failing sewer systems, reducing the goose population and implementing a stormwater utility in the city.

Ireton said the river’s quality can’t be entirely blamed on the wastewater treatment plant.

Nitrogen and phosphorous are most threatening to the river, and the Chesapeake Bay. Both are commonly found  in fertilizers that haven’t been properly managed, Creekwatchers volunteers say, leading to “massive loads being consistently flushed into the river.”

Water samples are drawn each year by Salisbury University students working on environmental studies degrees.

Directed by Dr. Judith Stribling, the students work with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies Horn Point Laboratory to test for  chlorophyll, salinity, pH, nitrogen and phosphorous.

Creekwatchers was founded in 2002 to work on returning the river to its original condition.

Ireton said he swam in the river as a boy, and hopes swimming there is possible again someday.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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