Rain heightens bacteria levels in Chattahoochee

by Sarah Fay Campbell

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Marianne Thomasson

People were at Coweta’s Riverside Park Sunday afternoon to watch the rising water level on the Chattahoochee River.

Heavy rains that moved through Georgia and Coweta during the weekend and on Monday brought the Chattahoochee River to just over flood level, and filled the river with trash and bacteria. 

Bacteria levels on the upper Chattahoochee were high enough on Tuesday that people were advised to avoid contact with the river water. 

There are bacterial count stations at two locations on the Chattahoochee River, both upstream in Atlanta — at Medlock Bridge Road and at Paces Ferry Road. At 2:15 Tuesday, the E. Coli count was 385 at Medlock Bridge and 997 at Paces Ferry. The counts last week were 76 and 386, respectively. As both of those stations are north of Atlanta, the counts on the southside are likely to be significantly higher. The National Park Service has issued a “health advisory statement” on the water in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. 

At the Hwy. 16 Bridge at the Coweta/Carroll County line, the river crested at 16.2 feet at 1:45 Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. 

Flood stage is 15 feet. That level only leads to very minor flooding. The “moderate” flooding level is 21 feet. The river level was down to 9.74 feet at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, but was expected to rise again. The forecast is for a new crest of 11.7 feet at 2 a.m. Thursday. 

On Sunday, people were at the Coweta Riverside Park at the boat ramp off Highway 16 West watching the river rise. The park and the boat ramp were later officially closed by Coweta officials. The park was still closed Tuesday afternoon, according to Tom Corker, Coweta Communications Manager.

“We think it is going to open up some time [today],” he said. 

The county closed the park because the rising water levels can be hazardous. 

Water had risen significantly above where it normally does on the boat ramp, and many tree limbs along the bank were touching the water.

Joe Buchanan, who visits the park regularly, said he’d expected the water to flood the parking lot, but it hasn’t.

The all-time crest of the river at Whitesburg was on Sept. 23, 2009, when the river hit 29.84 feet. The high water mark from that flood still can be seen on the supports of the Hwy. 16 bridge. It’s also marked with paint on a light pole in the parking lot. 

At Chattahoochee Bend State Park in western Coweta, park staff put up signs letting people know that bacteria levels are up and advising swimming is not recommended. The signs also advised the park also would not be renting canoes Tuesday because the water levels are up. 

According to the National Weather Service, 2.15 inches of rain was recorded Saturday in Peachtree City. An additional 0.18 inches was recorded on Sunday and 0.25 inches on Monday, for a three-day total of 2.58 inches in Peachtree City. 

No Newnan totals are available due to an equipment malfunction at The Newnan Times-Herald Weather Station. A residential rain gauge near downtown Newnan recorded approximately an inch during the three-day rain event.

According to the National Weather Service’s radar rainfall map, rainfall totals were significantly higher just east of Coweta County, with some metro-Atlanta counties receiving between 3 and 4 inches of rain — mostly east and north of Atlanta.



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