How clean is the French Broad River? New report just released

Photo credit: WLOS Staff

Just in time for the holiday weekend, the French Broad Riverkeeper has released a new report on the river’s overall health.

“Right before jumping into the river, the number one question people ask me is ,‘Is it clean?’” French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson said. “This report is an answer to that question.”

The report combines testing results from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the Volunteer Water Information Network, the Stream Monitoring Information Exchange, and MountainTrue’s volunteer water quality monitoring programs, weights the data and gives each stream a grade from A through F.

An A grade is given to streams that have excellent water quality and low pollution levels, and Fs are given to streams that have poor water quality. Sixty-six percent of streams scored A or B, a vast improvement from decades past. However, improvements are still needed, as 34 percent of the rivers in the report were rated a C or a D.

Four Cleanest Streams:

  • Middle Fork French Broad River - 100 points
  • Cathey’s Creek - 100 points
  • Cataloochee Creek - 100 points
  • Pigeon - upstream of Canton - 100 points

Four Dirtiest Streams:

  • Turkey Creek - 60 points
  • Newfound Creek - 62.5 points
  • Boylston Creek - 65 points
  • Fines Creek - 65 points

The report is averaging data sets from various sources collected over the last few years. “The report serves as a good, useful guideline,” Carson said. “But it’s important to remember water quality will vary a bit depending on weather conditions. Water is usually dirtier right after a big rainstorm, so be more cautious when the water is cloudy.”

The cleanest waterways are well protected from pollution, and most of their watersheds are located in protected public lands that lack a lot of agriculture, development or industrial pollution sources. The dirtiest streams lack land-use protections and are heavily impacted by bad agricultural practices and development.

Sediment and bacteria pollution are the most common sources of pollution to our waters. Sediment pollution is caused by runoff from construction sites and agricultural operations as well as eroding stream banks. Bacteria pollution comes from agricultural runoff, sewage leaks and faulty wastewater treatment plants.

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