River Water Advisory
What are river water advisories?
River water advisories warn the general public of possible river contamination and caution them to limit contact with river water when boating, fishing, water skiing or engaging in other river recreational activities.
Does this mean that people should stay out of the river?
No. An advisory does not prohibit nor discourage river recreational activities. It is intended to inform the general public when river water may be contaminated so they can take precautions to minimize water contact during their outings.
Do these precautions apply to everyone?
Yes, but these precautions are particularly aimed at people who have open cuts or sores, and those with weakened immune systems. These people are most vulnerable to infection from exposure to contaminated river water.
When are advisories issued?
Advisories are issued during the summer months when river recreation season is at its peak. That season typically lasts from May 15th through September 30th when the likelihood of exposure to river contamination due to sewer overflows and storm water runoff increases.
Why do sewers overflow?
Sewers overflow during a significant rainfall because the combined sewer systems fill up beyond their capacity to carry both sewage and storm water, thereby discharging the excess flow into rivers and streams. Since streams also are affected, people should limit stream contact as well.
Are advisories cancelled as soon as the rainfall stops?
No. Runoffs and overflows subside gradually and river water quality usually does not return to normal until 24 to 36 hours after the rainfall ends.
Are river water advisories something new?
No. River water advisories were instituted in 1995 to comply with federal regulations requiring public notice when overflows and runoffs increase the likelihood of river contamination.
How often are they likely to occur?
The frequency and duration may vary depending on the amount of rainfall. For example, in the "dry" summer of 1999, eleven advisories were issued lasting a total of 33 days (an average of three days each). In 1998, ten advisories were issued lasting a total of 50 days (an average of five days each).
Do these advisories have anything to do with drinking water?
No. Drinking water treatment processes are adjusted to address the changes in river water quality.
How can I find out when an advisory has been issued or cancelled?
The best way to find out is to call the River Water Advisory Hotline at 412-578-8076. The hotline provides timely updates to the public 24 hours a day. In addition, local marinas and other sites along the river fly orange-colored CSO (Combined Sewer Oveflow) alert flags indicating when an advisory is in effect.