Help LSRA monitor water quality in Harrisburg. Sign up to become a Water Watchdog volunteer.
What is Water Watchdogs?
LSRA and our Water Watchdogs volunteers monitor fecal coliform bacteria levels in the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. We rely on volunteer teams to collect samples and send them off for lab testing.
Sign up to become a Water Watchdog volunteer, plus receive updates on upcoming events, action alerts, and our newsletter.
About the Water Watchdogs Program
Pennsylvania’s capital and other cities and municipalities are releasing increasing amounts of raw sewage into the Susquehanna River, making the waterway dangerous for water contact recreation. We have implemented our “Water Watchdogs” program to monitor for bacteria levels along the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper monitored for bacteria levels both in 2019 and 2020 around the state capital. Monitoring for E coli bacteria along the city’s riverfront – including just down from outfalls near the Governor’s Mansion and State Office Complex – between June 5 and July 31, 2020, exceeded standards for safe swimming or water contact recreation in 20 of 60 samples (33 percent). The average E coli reading was almost 2.5 times higher than safe levels. Testing done along Paxton Creek (a tributary to the River) had even worse results. Our 2019 results indicated that the city was discharging raw sewage through their Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) on dry days which is very concerning.
We monitor fecal coliform bacteria levels, specifically Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are bacteria found in the intestines and fecal matter of warm-blooded animals. Bacteria scores reflect the number of E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water. The maximum allowable amount of E. coli bacteria in a single sample of water is 235 colonies per 100 milliliters. This standard is set by the PA Department of Environmental Protection. High counts of E. coli indicate that there is an elevated risk of illness from pathogenic organisms.
Become a volunteer
Volunteer teams will be trained and responsible for collecting two samples at each site location (1 for fecal coliform, 1 for E coli). Volunteer teams will pack their samples on ice after each site collection and travel to ALS Environmental Lab in Middletown for drop off. Sampling instructions, sample bottles, labels, bags, custody forms, writing instruments, PPE, coolers and travel allowance will be provided for our volunteers.
“Water Watchdogs” volunteers are instrumental in providing necessary data for our advocacy efforts in creating a final sewage consent decree for Capital Region Water and the city of Harrisburg that has stronger requirements and deadlines to eventually eliminate CSO completely.
Water Watchdog volunteers will be credited for hours and will be publicly recognized for their efforts (if permissible). Our volunteers not only participate in water sampling, but will be part of other activities, like data interpretation workshops. You will also have opportunities to engage and educate local communities on the Water Watchdogs Program, Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO), stormwater, and the dangers of elevated bacteria in our waterways.
Volunteers must have reliable transportation and must be able to conduct water sampling during a weekday conducive to ALS Environmental Lab’s business hours Monday-Friday 8AM-7PM.
If you are interested in participating in our Water Watchdogs Program, sign up below.
Sign Up to be a Water Watchdog
Fill out the form below to become a Water Watchdog volunteer.