GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new monitoring station will allow people in Grand Rapids to check the water quality of the Grand River in real time.

The new interactive water quality monitoring station was installed on the Sixth Street Bridge in May. It includes a QR code that people can scan to access the latest data.

The U.S. Geological Survey uses the station to take measurements every 15 minutes, analyzing everything from the water temperature to the amount of dissolved oxygen and dissolved organic matter.

One thing this monitor won’t be able to detect? E. coli. Currently, tests take between four to 18 hours to confirm excess levels of the bacteria. Instead, the station will be used to collect samples for the Bacteriological Research Laboratory in Lansing. The USGS hopes to use that data to design a prototype to specifically monitor for E. coli.

City Project Manager Michael Staal said the long-term vision is to create electronic beacons at all Grand River access points that would change from green to yellow and red to notify visitors of river conditions.

Staal said the USGS will be collecting data from May to October in 2022, 2023 and 2024. While they only have a couple months of data currently, Staal told the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority Wednesday that the results are “what they expected.”

Tools for the water monitor hang into the Grand River below the Sixth Street Bridge. (Matt Jaworowski/WOOD TV8)

“Through the years of the public engagement process for the Grand River Restoration project, one common question we were asked is about the water quality of the Grand River,” Staal said in a news release. “We took the question seriously and while we know — through our historical monitoring efforts — the E. coli levels don’t typically reach the state’s recreational non-contact limits, there are times it does.”

“Creating a partnership with USGS on this cutting-edge project is an important step to working toward providing actionable data for the users of the Grand River,” Staal continued.

While not directly connected, the installation comes ahead of the “River for All” project, which is working to restore the Grand River’s rapids. City Project Manager Michael Staal said the water monitoring station is something a lot of people want to see, especially as recreation opportunities expand along the river.

Matt Chapman, the project manager for Grand Rapids Whitewater, said he believes the monitor system will help show people that the Grand River is clean and safe.

“Despite years of water quality data trending in the positive direction, the Grand River still has a negative reputation as a polluted river,” Chapman said in a release. “This real-time data, accessible to everyone, will build awareness around the health of the river and hopefully spark additional conversations about the need for long-term stewardship of this natural resource.”

“I talk to folks still today who believe that the Grand River is super polluted and you can’t eat the fish that you catch out of it. And it’s been this long-held belief, I think, especially 40 years ago, and people don’t appreciate the work that we did with sewer separation and the impact that had on water quality in the Grand River,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said Wednesday. “Obviously, we still have incidents of high rain events where we get a lot of runoff from upstream down. But working on the river restoration project for the last decade, we’ve done all these environmental studies and a lot of the perceptions about the quality of our river and even the sedentary (sic) and the bedrock is just not accurate. And it’s a hard belief to challenge when people have thought that about our Grand River for decades. So I’m glad that we have this and that we’re continuing to try to make it as user friendly and as easy to understand as possible.”

According to the city, the USGS covers 60% of the project’s funding. The other 40% is split between the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority and a grant issued by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.