The Daily News in North Andover, Massachusetts is reporting on water quality issues in the Merrimack River. According to the story, the Merrrimack River Watershed Council states that E. coli has been found in the river.
Apparently, it was not an isolated incident. According to the story, the river was unsafe for swimming on 6% of wet weather days during the study, based on the applicable state standards. Worse, "state standards for safe E. coli levels are lax when viewed against standards set by other water quality governing agencies. If [one] were to measure the Merrimack River’s E. coli levels against safety standards set by the 40-year-old Charles River Watershed Association, for instance, the river would be deemed unsafe for swimming and boating far more often."
E. coli is a general term for a family of common fecal bacteria. Within that family is E. coli O157:H7, a pathogenic bacteria that can cause serious illness in humans, including hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.