The Hendersonville drinking water facility is planning on moving its facility from the Mills River to the French Broad River within the next five years. The drought during 2007 and 2008 led to a water crisis in Hendersonville, resulting in plans to connect a water intake pipe to the French Broad River prior to moving the facility. The plans to use the French Broad River as a source of drinking water have raised concerns about the quality of its water, particularly bacterial levels. The French Broad River watershed is large and susceptible to several sources of fecal contamination including, livestock operations, leaky septic tanks, effluent from wastewater treatment plants and pet waste carried in storm runoff.
ECO began a bacterial monitoring program in the summer of 2009, focusing on monitoring surface water from the French Broad River and the effluent from wastewater treatment plants. This program is still under development and the current focus is on gathering baseline data. Monthly water samples are collected from 5 sites in the French Broad River from the point where the river enters Henderson County to the confluence with the Mills River. Four wastewater treatment plant effluent pipes are also being monitored. All samples are processed at the ECO office with Coliscan® Easygel®, using Escherichia coli as an indicator of fecal contamination.