Keeping us aware, one test at a time

Published 9:48 am Thursday, August 23, 2018

It isn’t well-known that every Thursday and Friday, the James River Association (JRA) and several volunteers in the Heart of Virginia go underneath the bridge separating the town of Farmville from Cumberland County and test water samples from the Appomattox River. They do the work, however, to make sure those in the Heart of Virginia understand when it’s safe to be in the river — and when it isn’t.

Farmville is one of 23 testing sites that the JRA collects water from. The Appomattox River runs into the James River, which is approximately 340 miles long and stretches from Botetourt County in the Roanoke area to the Chesapeake Bay. Samples are kept in an incubator at the Appomattox River Company until ready to show bacteria. The JRA and volunteers test for the river’s bacteria levels, particularly for Escherichia coli, or E. coli. They also test for the cloudiness, or turbidity, of the river.

When the Appomattox River became flooded in May, the flood disrupted the bacterial level in the water and had a higher concentration of E. coli than it normally would have, actually exceeding the safe bacterial levels by more than 200 (colony-forming unit) cfu per 100 (milliliter) ml, the measurement used to test the bacterial levels in the water.

Email newsletter signup

As we’re in the midst of hurricane season, and as a number of industrial projects are proposed to come to the area such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Green Ridge landfill, being aware and taking actions to preserve the health of the river is important, especially for us who swim, fish, canoe, kayak or boat along it. The flooding of the river cannot only be dangerous for swimmers with the increased risk of drowning, it can also make people sick if the bacterial levels have exceeded safe levels.

It’s also important to make sure that the area rivers and creeks are protected from runoff, or any contaminants that could come from large-scale projects that would use natural gas, household waste or other chemicals. Lastly, it’s important to make sure that we’re keeping litter and animal waste from pets and cattle away from the river and nearby creeks and streams.

We at the Herald commend the JRA, the Appomattox River Company and the volunteers who use their time, resources and energy to keep the area aware of the health of the river and the subsequent impact it could have on us who boat, fish or swim in the river.

To find out how you can read the Appomattox River tests online, visit and click Farmville on the map.