West Virginia water quality experts are hoping to pinpoint how bad the bacteria problem has gotten in a 277-mile section of the Ohio River.

According to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, 500 miles of the 981-mile-river has unsafe levels of bacteria.

The river has a number of other toxic chemicals that restricts the eating of fish.

West Virginia is joining with Ohio, Kentucky and three other states that border the Ohio River for a study being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Total Maximum Daily project is to identify and reduce dangerous bacterial levels in the waterway.

It will determine how much bacteria sewage treatment plants, factories, farms and municipalities can discharge into the river without exceeding safety standards.

The study will include thousands of samples from the Ohio River. It is scheduled to be completed next year.

About 15,000 water samples will be taken at 5-mile intervals of the entire river.

The two main bacteria found and studied in the Ohio along West Virginia are fecal coliform and Escherichia coli, generally known as E. coli.

Jason Heath, of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission said ingestion of the polluted water can lead to gastroenteritis, which can result in vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

The two largest contributors of fecal coliform in the Ohio River are raw sewage leaking into the river because of overflowing sewers and urban overflow caused by poor municipal systems.

The agency says the City of Huntington has been notorious for both.

The sewer problems primarily stem from the fact that 85 percent of Huntington's sewer pipes carry both storm water and sewage.

Several communities along the Ohio River have had similar problems.

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