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I've heard good and bad things about the water in the Platte. I'm from Kansas so I'm no stranger to beige water. I 'd love to paddel there but stories of cancer causeing chemicals and industrial waste are not somthing to take lightly. Can some one tell me where to get an accurate water quality report. :(
 

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Consewage

In my opinion, Confluence bashing is a lot of hype. If the place sucks it is because of the lame playspots and not the dirty water. (OK, so I love it because it is close to home, and nice and warm because of the power plants.)

You should definitely wear a nose plug, and don't drink the water, but, come on, you are not going to get cancer from paddling there. I have been there many times over the past years and cannot attribute any sickness, or “skin rash” from Consewage.

Phil
 

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Recently, in my microbiology class my professor, whom I believe to be a reputable source, told us that the south platte is on average over 70% effluent. That's really bad news for water quality.
 

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James,
The South Platte happens to be a river in the USGS NAWQA program (National Water Quality Assessment) so there's a fair amount of data online. A quick search turned up this report :

http://www.usgs.gov/public/press/public_affairs/press_releases/pr494m.html

PDF of whole report: http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/circ/circ1167/circ1167.pdf

This report is a little dated (about 10 year old) but I'm sure there's more info available online. Joe is correct that streamflow on sections of the Platte can be mostly sewage discharge depending on base streamflow and how much the sewage treatment plant is releasing (particularly an issue below the Denver Municipal Wastewater plant in Commerce city, which is downstream of Confluence, I personally am never going to float the Henderson section, ever...). While sewage effluent is stinky and all around gross, perhaps the most pressing issue with the effluent is nutrient (N and P) release which can affect the stream by promoting algal growth and oxygen depletion.

At Confluence I think it's wise to be concerned with chemicals - particularly organic chemicals from pesticides and gasoline additives. After a dry spell, a big rain can flush lots of these via the storm sewer system... so when the water is rises quickly the chemical concentrations don't dilute, they actually spike, and water quality can get really bad. The report I mentioned gives details on surveys for various hazardous chemicals.... to summarize, urban surface waters were worse than agricultural and mixed-use areas for pesticides and other hazardous chemicals. They detected organic chemicals (most of those they measure are carcinogens) in most samples, but almost all levels were below EPA regulatory limits. So, interpret as you will....

Claire

ps, more subjectively,... last spring I got pinkeye the day after paddling confluence and I'm pretty convinced it came from the water...
 

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alexhenes said:
Claire...

Wasn't there a study that showed Confluence being cleaner than the water in Boulder creek?
Not exactly. Though, good memory Alex! I got water samples from Confluence and Boulder Cr to test fecal coliforms in a micro class I taught a few years ago. Yes, we measured fewer fecal coliforms in the Confluence sample than in the Boulder Creek sample. (Coliforms are bacteria that indicate water contamination with feces from warm-blooded animals). But that doesn't mean that Confluence is "cleaner."

Lots of possible explanations:
-it was just one unreplicated grab sample, which really doesn't say much
-the water sample at BC could have been taken in a slow, warm, backwater that promotes coliform growth while Confluence could have been taken in a swiftly moving section
-Confluence could be so contaminated with chemicals that it is actually toxic to the coliforms
-the guy that took the coliform sample for me at Confluence could have somehow screwed up. (for example, he gave the sample to me in an antifreeze container. He said he rinsed it really well, but, still....) I didn't take the Confluence sample myself so I really can't say. And I wouldn't have chosen an old antifreeze container as a sample bottle :)

So, yeah,... I'd go with the NAWQA info available online.
Though it wasn't a total waste of time, my students liked looking for poop indicators in the rivers that I paddle.
 

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Hey Joe, yeah he's right. I got a wicked stye in my eye a few years ago because of Connie? She's an evil @#$$%! Steamboat friday, Willow saturday. . .

Kent
 

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Geez, Claire - you do this for a living? :wink: Nice points.

Seems like some folks never get sick there, others say they always do. Personally, I seem to have a few bouts with sinus stuff at the start of the Confluence season, then I'm fine.

While anyone can pick up a biological friend in the water in a few seconds, carcinogens are a different matter. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you need continued exposure to a certain amount over a prolonged time period to increase the risk of cancer. I recently posted that Clear Creek is full of nasty heavy metals and whatnot, but I'll never think twice about going to Golden because the amount I'm exposed to is so low.

Also, treated effluent is not hazardous to you. It's only when cities with a combined sewer system have massive runoff and dump untreated effluent with the storm water that you have a problem with effluent. Other than that lovely urban-water smell.

Tangent: On the Pigeon in TN, there are signs that say not to eat more than 1.5 pounds of fish per month if caught in that river (old paper mill). Tasty! At least the play is good.
 

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I agree with you Caspian. I'm more concerned with picking up an infection at Confluence than with the chemicals, but it's still an interesting issue. When you accidentally take a gulp and it tastes like gasoline, well,...

Cancer research is hard to wade through, but - you're right, what I remember from my toxicology classes is that chronic (long term) exposure is often needed. I'd bet you get a much higher dose of pesticides by eating non-organic food (dairy and meat especially) than by taking a sip of Confluence. So I suppose one approach is to buy organic, take your antioxidants, and go play in the swamp...
 

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From a practical angle.....(maybe a bit off topic) I work with teenagers (I am a youth pastor) so confluence was a pretty decent place for them to learn some basics. Short, fairly easy swim, and straight forward rapid. I dont want them to get sick. So where is a good place to take them. Golden can make for a long swim. Boulder might be good?

thanks,

benrodda
 

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2-cents & Allied Chemical

I don't know how many of you remember all the chemical plants along side the Platte from years gone by, but I sure do. Allied Chemical was a major player along the river...and they had several accidents where things, stuff, got spilled directly into the river or was washed into the river either deliberately or by natural means.

This area from roughly Evans Ave on down into Commerce City had its share of chemical processing plants, smelters, crusher mills, retort plants, etc. So that should be something to think about. I guess we all have to die eventually, but it would be mindful of one to think about what you may be exposing yourself to.

I still have this lurid visual image in my mind from when I was a kid. Dead fish, chemical encrusted, floating in the river, the stench was awful.

syotr
 

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benrodda said:
From a practical angle.....(maybe a bit off topic) I work with teenagers (I am a youth pastor) so confluence was a pretty decent place for them to learn some basics. Short, fairly easy swim, and straight forward rapid. I dont want them to get sick. So where is a good place to take them. Golden can make for a long swim. Boulder might be good?

thanks,

benrodda
Ben - At lower water levels I think Golden is better for teaching than Boulder Cr, and Boulder Cr often has some serious low low flow issues. But both are good. Lyons added several new drops to their whitewater park (the city park it's in is really pretty) and they look great for beginners - very straightforward drops with eddies for peelouts etc. (it's chilly in there behind the rock wall though,not much sun). If you can arrange a shuttle the Deckers section above Waterton (what is that the south fork of the South Platte?) is a great place for 1st or 2nd timers - really a good teaching section I thought. For a whole day trip, Pumphouse on the Colorado is also great for beginners. Cool that you take the kids out, sounds pretty fun.

-claire

(ps, watch out for the section below the Lyons park, I hear Mike Paris took a swim there during last year's festival race :wink: )
 

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Claire,

Hey thanks so much for the information. Yeah it can be really fun to take the kids out, stressful when swims get really long and cold for them. Even still the expereinces are great and often teaches them more than I ever could in a classroom.

Maybe I have the cart before the horse though.... Do I need to get that Mike Paris guy to give the kids in my youth group swiming lessons before we head out? (I paddled with you guys down at Golden a good bit last year (Red G-Force) I wish I had his skills.)

thanks again,

benrodda
 

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Hey Ben,

Another place to take beginners if you're thinking of heading up to the Upper C would be the reach just above Dotsero. Depending on where you put in, either Cottonwood Island or Lyons Gulch, its either about 6 or 4 miles, respectively, to the takeout at the Dotsero bridge. The run has open, sunny Class II rapids interspersed with flatwater. I've seen intro kayaking classes out there before often. Not quite as challanging (or as crowded) as Pumphouse but still interesting and likely to be a good confidence booster for a beginner.

Easy access just off I-70, drive up along the river and scout from the road.

--Andy
 

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Raft?

This is a funny story and speaks to your question. My husband and a friend were playing in the hole at Confluence a couple of years ago when a spectator held out his arms as if he were holding a box and began to yell. The guys thought that the person was yelling "raft, raft", and they kept looking up river confused. Finally they realized that the person was yelling "RAT, RAT!" and motioning the size of the thing.

So, I don't know the exact toxicity of the Platte but I'd rather not boat with rats. Just a personal preference.
 
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