Austin citizen scientists take on Cedar River E.coli Contaminati - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Austin citizen scientists take on Cedar River E.coli contamination

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AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) -

The grassroots Cedar River Watershed Project aims to improve water quality across southern Minnesota. The Austin chapter of the Izaak Walton League, a conservation group, are warning people in Austin and greater Mower County to beware of E.coli contamination in the river and nearby streams. 

Nearly 500 samples were taken from 83 sites across the Cedar River. Tests reveal 70 percent of these locations found E.Coli levels were sometimes 50 times higher than the state's human health standard. 

Each year, thousands of people visit the 338-mile long river that spans from Minnesota to Iowa.

"It's not just the Cedar, it's the Upper Iowa, the Root, Zumbro based on other data collected from MPCA." 

While there hasn't been an outbreak associated with the elevated levels of E.coli in the Cedar River, the league is working with the county to ensure people can swim and fish. 

"I want my children and my grandchildren to be able to walk in this water and to feel comfortable in this water. I love to canoe, I want to share that with my family, with friends, and say we have pretty clean water here in southern Minnesota," said Larry Dolphin, the co-chair of the Cedar River Watershed Project.

E.coli often comes from fecal contamination, the report finds hogs, cattle, and human waste are the main cause of the bacteria in the Cedar River. 

Though not all E.coli is harmful, the bad strands can cause significant health problems which include diarrhea and nausea.

The conservation group is calling on local officials, and Hormel Foods to move hog and cattle operations away from streams and rivers. They also want all residents to bring their personal sewage systems up to standard by the end of the year. 

"It's a big ask but we feel we need to move as quickly as possible," said Dolphin. 

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