There is no doubt that when river flows ebb and temperatures rise, bacteria levels in the Kaweah River reach their yearly highs. These typical summer levels are not dangerous but can be cause for concern.
But what several riverfront residents reported seeing on Monday, July 23, was unusual. One Pumpkin Hollow resident said the spill/discharge probably happened during the night because the river was running opaque green by sunrise.
“Tailrace water at the SCE No. 2 Powerhouse was also opaque green,” reported Three Rivers resident Bill Pooley. “I witnessed a similar event in August 2013.”
Pooley notified the Three Rivers Community Services District. The CSD monitors water quality and routinely tests river water for bacteria levels at several strategic locales.
On Tuesday, July 24, Cindy Oviedo, CSD general manager, collected water samples and immediately sent them out for analysis. Oviedo said she expects to have the test results back from the Fruit Growers corporate lab (Santa Paula) in five days.
Also on Tuesday, an inspector from the State Water Resources Control Board toured the sewerage disposal plant that Sequoia National Park operates at Ash Mountain. The National Park Service was an obvious suspect because it is the only wastewater treatment facility upstream from
where the green substance was first noticed.
The SWRCB inspector said there was no evidence at the Ash Mountain treatment plant that any effluent had been discharged. Until the test results are returned to the CSD early next week, there is no way of knowing the origin or composition of the green water, nor its potential impact on water quality in the Kaweah River.
If anyone noticed suspicious activity in the vicinity of the river or has photos of the green water, notify Cindy Oviedo at the CSD, (559) 561-3480.
UPDATE: August 3, 2018
The opaque green water that several residents reported seeing in the Kaweah River on the morning of July 23 was probably not wastewater discharge. That according to test results that came back Wednesday, August 1 from a corporate lab in Santa Paula.
The results show the typical trace minerals that are present in Kaweah River, and low levels of bacteria but not the residue that would have been left behind had the eerie green mass of water been a sewerage spill.
“The only way to know what that green water was composed of was if it was sampled when it was first noticed flowing down river,” said Cindy Oviedo, CSD general manager.
Curiously, a similar looking discharge of water was reported in the same area several years ago. Oviedo reported that a resident who monitors the river closely and reported the recent variation in the river water has been equipped with sample bottles and will have the means to sample the water if something suspicious arises.
Oviedo said she heard speculation that it could have been someone dumping some unwanted chemicals or even an intense algae bloom.
“We will probably never know for sure,” Oviedo said. “But whatever it was, it did not significantly affect the river’s water quality.”