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Pathogenic Microorganisms in Recreational Waters

Pathogenic microorganisms are microscopic organisms that cause disease. Many are naturally present in recreational waters in the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area. However, high concentrations of them in the water increase the risk that people will get sick. Scientists assess the health risk of recreational waters by measuring the concentration of Escherichia coli (E. coli), which indicates how much fecal matter is in the water. Just as a thermometer measures temperature, E. coli measures the amount of fecal matter present. Fecal matter can contain pathogenic microorganisms such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and some strains of E. coli that cause gastrointestinal illness. Reducing the amount of fecal matter that enters the Lower Chippewa River and its surrounding lakes and rivers reduces the risk that people will contract these illnesses.

Stormwater runoff is the main way most fecal matter is washed into the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area. Stormwater runoff flows into storm sewers or down the banks of the lakes and into the Lower Chippewa River, and so it is not treated by the wastewater treatment facility. To reduce the amount of fecal matter that enters waterways in the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area, you can decrease the amount of stormwater that flows directly into it.  Make a rain garden, which allows stormwater to soak into the ground and filters out pollutants. To reduce the amount of fecal matter that enters waterways, do not feed wildlife because it encourages them to congregate near recreational areas. When walking your pet, carry a bag to pick up your pet's waste and properly dispose of it in a garbage can.

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