App tracks pollution for Columbia River users

App tracks pollution for Columbia River users

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by KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on June 27, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 27 at 9:40 AM

PORTLAND -- A new smartphone app finds the closest, cleanest place to take a dip in the Columbia River.

Columbia Riverkeeper launched the app called Swim Guide.

The guide allows users to search for beaches and find out how high the E.coli levels are in the water that day and whether or not it's safe to swim there.

The app uses data collected by volunteers at ten different sites along the Columbia.

A green dot on the Swim Guide app indicates the beach area is safe to take a swim. A red dot means there's contamination.

“The rivers are ours and the beaches are ours to enjoy, but many people are concerned about the water quality, so this gives people an easy to use tool so they can tell how clean the water is,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

VandenHeuvel says without the volunteer tests, most people would never know how clean or dirty the water is.

“There's hardly any testing besides what we're doing. There wouldn't be any signs there wouldn't be any indication,” he said.

And because E.coli levels can change abruptly with sewage spills and storm runoff, volunteers monitor many of the sites weekly.

“A lot of people get river nose, you get really sick,” explained Hannah Hurley.

Hurley is a wind surfer who worries about the cleanliness of the water she surfs in.

She says she thinks the Swim Guide app is a great idea.

“That makes me feel better about swimming in this water,” she said.

Columbia Riverkeeper plans to expand the app to include more beaches and more pollutants.

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