The river wild

The river wild

Dear M. Pure: Well, if there’s one thing Ace appreciates as he gets on in years, it’s fishing, swimming and canoeing… and drifting lazily downstream in a raft, drinking beer and ogling women in bathing suits, of course. Fortunately for Ace, the Rivanna River allows him do all of these things. But is it safe?
    The Charlottesville / Albemarle Con-vention & Visitors Bureau lists Rivanna River as “a wonderful place for human residents to fish, canoe, swim and boat.” Case closed, right?
    Not so fast, Chico. Upon further study, Ace found out that the answer may not be all that cut and dried. In pursuit of the whole story, Ace contacted John Holden, vice president of the Rivanna Trails Foundation and a man who has been just about everywhere on the river. He expressed his personal concern to Ace about the quality of the water downstream of the area where Moore’s Creek flows into the Rivanna.
    Moore’s Creek is home to a wastewater treatment facility run by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority—and even Ace after a few beers is smart enough to know that combining the words “waste” and “water” is never a good thing. And, indeed, a June 2002 report presented to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality addressed the growing abundance of fecal coliform bacteria in the Moore’s Creek watershed. (Fecal coliform bacteria, as you’ve no doubt surmised, are the bacteria found in human and animal excrement. Hey, you asked, O.K.?)
    Now that Ace has gotten the scoop on the poop, does this mean that the Rivanna River is unsuitable for leisure and fishing? Well, maybe, maybe not.
    Jim Galloway, a professor at UVA’s department of environmental sciences, points out, “If you wanted to swim in a river, it depends on what’s upstream.” With the Rivanna stretching over 40 miles in length, there are a lot of different places that qualify as “upstream.” Holden agreed with Ace’s astute observation, stressing how enthralled he was by certain sections of the river.    
    Yet the question remains, to swim or not to swim? For now, Ace leaves it to his dear readers to decide. But rest assured, Mr. Wader—as long as scantily clad women continue to splash around the Rivanna, so will Ace.

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