Is it safe to swim in the Ohio River? There's an app for that

Published: Aug. 1, 2013 at 2:23 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2013 at 3:11 AM EDT
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(FOX19) - If you've ever wondered whether it's safe to swim in the Ohio River, well now there's an app for that. It's called Recr8OhioRiver, and it helps people determine if the water quality is safe.

According to the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), Hamilton County is among the top five locations in the nation for combined sewage overflow. That runoff often goes into the Ohio River creating issues for the water quality.

MSD says about 90% of the time during dry weather, the Ohio River is safe for recreation. However, what about when we see periods of heavy rain?

"The combination of regular sanitary waste mixed in with storm water, when an overflow occurs, there's an opportunity for the water quality to be impacted," said MSD Director Tony Parrott.

Parrott says there is more than 11 billion gallons of overflow from the sewer system every year. He adds that a combination of a sewer system that's a century and a half old and the geographic layout of the Greater Cincinnati area impacts this trend.

"Based on the amount of rain and the duration of the storm, we can calculate what types of water quality impacts to expect," said Parrott.

So how do you figure out if it's okay to spend a day on the river? Once you select if you're swimming, boating, or doing water sports, the Recr8OhioRiver app uses a color-coded analysis of the water conditions.

"The green means go, low-risk water quality, medium risk water quality in the yellow, red high risk quality," explained Laith Alfaqih with MSD.

Joe Buchanan is the harbour master at Manhattan Harbour, and he says he's been swimming in the Ohio River since he was 6-years-old.

"I've never had an eye infection or any problems period," said Buchanan.

Despite Buchanan's clean record, there are times when the E. coli levels make the water unsafe, and Buchanan believes this app will improve safety and certainly have a positive impact on everyone in the boating community.

"All the boaters, the boat manufacturers, boat sale dealers, and customers will enjoy going to the app because there's great opportunity to share information about what's going on in the Tri-State," said Buchanan.

"Our goal is strictly to improve the environment but also to make sure that we're taking every step to protect public health," Parrott explained.

According to MSD officials, the Ohio River has consistently become cleaner and healthier over the past few decades due to efforts to reduce pollution.

For more information or to download the free app, follow this link: You can also search "Recr8OhioRiver" in your mobile app store.

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