Bacteria levels good on Souhegan, Merrimack rivers

Water quality testing done on the Souhegan and Merrimack rivers last week showed a more normal pattern than two weeks ago, with bacteria levels generally good – and likely to get better.

“Unless it rains, the E. coli levels will continue to drop and should be safe for swimming in both rivers,” said George May, director of the volunteer monitoring program.

The Merrimack River showed very low bacteria counts, well below the 88 acceptable level for swimming.

The upper section of the Souhegan River, from Ashburnham, Mass., to Wilton, also showed excellent results. Counts began to increase beginning in west Milford, but most stayed under the maximum 126 level for swimming.

The highest levels were measured at the Swing Bridge in Milford, just downstream of the Oval, and at Seaverns Bridge in Merrimack. Counts at these points were 161 and 172 respectively.

Known swimming spots on the Souhegan River all tested below the maximum 126 level, but the Boston Post Road Canoeport in Amherst and Watson Park in Merrimack, at the mouth of the river, were slightly higher than the acceptable level of 88. Boston Post Road was 121 and Watson Park was 93.

High levels of bacteria can cause gastrointestinal problems and eye and ear infections, especially in those with weakened immune systems.

Every two weeks in the summer, volunteers check more than 20 sites along the Souhegan River and 10 sites on the Merrimack River between Manchester and Tyngsborough, Mass.

The testing program is sponsored by the
Souhegan Watershed Association and the Lower Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, and the E. coli, dissolved oxygen and other tests are performed at the Milford, Merrimack, Manchester and Nashua wastewater treatment facilities.

Complete results can be found at www.nashua