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Professor says Town Run has levels of E. coli

April 27, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - High levels of bacteria have been detected in Shepherdstown's Town Run, and the cause could be from a number of sources, including domestic animals or septic systems, a Shepherd University professor said Wednesday night.

Town Run is a prominent feature of Shepherdstown and the surrounding area. It begins near Morgan's Grove Park, then flows through the park, a marsh and then into town, where it runs under buildings and past Shepherd University.

People began noticing sediment buildup in Town Run, and last year, samples of water were taken from the stream, said Glenn Kinser, vice president of the Shepherdstown Men's Club.

On Wednesday, Shepherd University assistant professor Peter Vila reported at a club meeting on findings of the samples.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has set standards for E. coli, Vila said.

To sample for E. coli, five samples must be taken and the geometric mean cannot be more than 126 colony-forming units, Vila said.

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Samples of water taken from Town Run have exceeded that standard, although Vila could not say how much during an interview before his talk.

The next step will be determining where the bacteria is coming from, said Vila, adding that the sources could include wild animals, domestic animals or septic tanks.

To determine if it is septic systems, Vila said maps exist that show where septic tanks are in the area. Samples then could be taken downstream from the septic tanks to determine if there is a correlation between them and high levels of bacteria, Vila said.

There are ways the bacteria levels can be reduced, Vila said.

If waste from domestic animals is causing the high levels of bacteria, buffers can be established along Town Run to keep domestic animals at a safe distance, Vila said.

After problems became apparent in Town Run, the Shepherdstown Town Council gave $8,000 and Shepherd University chipped in $2,000 for the work to study the stream, Vila said.

"It's a beautiful stream," Vila said.

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