Tracking Bacteria Pollution in the Lower Concord River

For the last 2 years, OARS program to monitor E.coli, a fecal indicator bacteria, showed higher than acceptable levels in the Concord River at the Roger's Street bridge in Lowell. In 2020 we conducted a study that found high bacteria levels entering the Concord River and identified River Meadow Brook as the likely source. This summer, we undertook a study to track down the source.

River Meadow Brook flows from Westford and Chelmsford through Lowell into the Concord River just below the Rogers St. bridge. By the time it enters the river, it is heavily polluted.

Water samples collected by volunteer Citizen Scientists for 15 weeks this summer were analyzed to identify the distribution of E. coli bacteria. The results show that rather than a single “smoking gun” there are several probable sources of bacteria that may include stormwater, sewage, dogs, and geese.

For detailed results and analysis, check out the data and charts from our 2021 study.

OARS is working with the City of Lowell and upstream towns to eliminate this bacteria pollution. Our goal is to make River Meadow Brook and the Concord River safe for human contact through swimming, wading and exploring. The Concord River is currently considered safe for boating and fishing-but not for eating the fish!

This work was made possible through funding from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.