Is the Delaware River Safe for Boating and Swimming?

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Date: July 20, 2006
Contact: Loren Goering, 570-729-7574

The National Park Service at Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (NPS) has received a lot of questions about whether it’s safe to go back on the Delaware River after the recent flooding. These are valid concerns; river users are advised to continue to exercise considerable caution. Concerns include high flows, debris, hazards to navigation, diminished water clarity, and possible elevated bacteria levels.

The National Park Service and other agencies (federal, state, and county) routinely monitor surface waters to determine the typical or average water quality but no-one continuously monitors water quality. Many sewage treatment plants (STPs) have been flooded and are off-line, or are operating at diminished capacity. Some STPs are only able to treat discharged sewage with chlorine; others with primary (partial) treatment, while other plants are fully functional. The National Park Service sampled water for fecal coliform bacteria in multiple locations on the Delaware River and on some tributaries on July 11 and July 18, 2006. These samples showed fluctuating levels. Fecal coliform levels can change from day to day depending on discharges and water levels. The fecal coliform counts for the Delaware River ranged between 2 and 103 colonies/100ml, below the 200 colonies/100 ml that would result in the closure of a public beach area. On Tuesday, July 18, the fecal coliform counts on the Eqununk Creek and Ten Mile River exceeded 500 colonies/100ml. The National Park Service urges river users to use caution. As always, do not drink surface water and wash your hands before eating.

The water of the Upper Delaware River is not tested for fuel and oil spills or other toxic substances. The National Park Service does, however, wish to hear of any suspicious spills, oil slicks, odors, or unusual reactions (e.g. rashes or illnesses) people may encounter when on, in, or near the river. Any containers with unknown materials that may need to be removed from the river or the floodplain should be reported to PA DEP (570) 826-2511 or NY DEC (845) 256-3145.

Any safety hazards or hazards to navigation, such as trailers or other debris that may have been washed into the river, should also be reported to Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Do not attempt to remove or salvage such items from the river. There are no salvage rights on the Delaware River, and keeping property found in the Delaware River is against the law.

For more information please call Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River at (570) 729-7134.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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