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Results are in! Bacteria Associated with Rainfall

May 15, 2017

Older cities like Perth Amboy, Newark, and Paterson have a combined sewer system, which transports both your stormwater and municipal sewage to the wastewater treatment plant in the same pipes. During heavy rain, these sewer pipes become so overloaded they discharges raw sewage directly into your waterway!

Everyone deserves a clean and safe local waterway, but because of these raw sewage discharge events, known as Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO), your waterways may experience high levels of bacteria that make swimming and fishing unsafe.

Learn more about your local Raritan Bay beach by checking out our 2016 water quality sampling results here.

NY/NJ Baykeeper and partners including the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council, Raritan Riverkeeper, and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, trained a team of approximately 25 volunteers to sample nine beaches on a weekly basis from June-October 2016. Locations were tested for Enterococcus, a pathogen indicator denoting fecal bacteria.

The Results

Water sampling results signified that Enterococcus levels were much higher immediately following precipitation.The highest  Enterococcus levels were found in Perth Amboy at the Route 35 Bridge and 2nd Street sites, both located near CSO discharge pipes. To learn more about the results, click here.

Raritan Riverkeeper, Bill Schultz, stands in front of a CSO discharge pipe at a Perth Amboy sampling site.

What You Need to Know

Avoid contact with waterways at least 72 hours after rainfall! Contact with pathogens can make you sick!

Take Action

You can help reduce raw sewage and bacteria from entering your waterway by reducing the stress on your municipality’s combined sewer system.

  • Install a rain barrel. Click here for instructions.
  • Conserve water during rainfall.
  • Redirect your downspout to a grassy area.
  • Plant a tree or a rain garden.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued new permits to all CSO municipalities in July 2015. Permittees are required to develop a Long Term Control Plan to plan how to stop CSOs from occurring. The plan will then be implemented over the course of 20-30 years, but in the meantime, we can all do our part to better manage our stormwater.

Funding for the water quality sampling program was made possible by the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program.


The data collected is not intended to advocate for opening a bathing beach in any of the areas that were tested. The conclusions drawn from this project are to inform the public, elected officials, agencies, and residents about their local water quality.

Thank you for all that you do for a fishable, swimmable NY-NJ Harbor Estuary!

Meredith Comi

Restoration Program Director