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Can River Safety and Recreation Mix?

Posted: November 28, 2016 at 8:20 pm by , in Featured, Morning Magazine

As water finds its way downstream, it carries waste picked up on the way to its destination. That is not good for the river or the people who use the water for recreation. In Denver, there is an ongoing effort to clean up the South Platte River by testing the water and also by keeping the contaminated water from reaching the river in the first place.

“I think cities would like to build more parks instead of constantly having to clean up our water.”-Rachel Hansgen, Groundwork Denver.

Frani Halperin of H2O Radio meet up with Rachel Hansgen and Steven Aderholdt of Groundwork Denver at the confluence of Bear Creek and the South Platte River as they take samples of the water to check for E.Coli. If they find E.Coli, they will attempt to track it back and try to fix the problem at the source in order to keep the water from getting contaminated. Meanwhile, in Denver, they are using other methods to keep contaminated runoff from reaching the river.

“It’s just using soils and vegetation to treat storm water runoff…I find that vegetation loves dirty runoff.” Sarah Anderson, Denver Public Works.

Halperin spoke with Sarah Anderson of the Denver Public Works and Jon Novik of Denver Environmental Health about this process. The city of Denver is using “green infrastructure” to keep dirty water from reaching the river. All along the South Platte River, in the green spaces, water is being collected under the ground and cleaned by soil and vegetation. While the monitoring and the green infrastructure are working together to help make the river a place for the community to enjoy, much of the time, it is not quite ready.

“Most of the time, when the weather is warm and people want to be in the water, it really isn’t safe.”-Jon Novik, Denver Environmental Health.

The city wants to create an inviting environment around the river so that people do care for it, but at the same time, they do not want to put anyone in harms way due to bacteria levels. Bacteria levels in the South Platte tend to be higher in the summer when more people are looking to go out and enjoy the river, which can be unsafe to anyone getting in the water. Monitoring the river’s bacteria levels and preventing pollution from reaching river have made great improvements to the South Platte, but work still needs to be done.

“The city can’t do all this alone. We need people to be responsible stewards for area surface waters.”

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This story is from Frani Halperin of H2O Radio where you can find many more stories about water and the environment.