How to Keep the White Clay Safe from Hidden Germs

Keeping our water safe and clean can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, especially when it comes to limiting the risk of pathogens. Most of us have heard the word pathogen before, and it probably reminds us of being sick, right? Pathogens are different types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can also contaminate and sicken drinking water sources, just like they do to us. Cryptosporidium (or “Crypto” for short) is a common waterborne pathogen.


The source of waterborne pathogens is almost always fecal matter from infected humans and animals. Pathogens like Crypto get into creeks and rivers from non-point sources, such as manure runoff from rain and improperly cared for septic systems.  Drinking untreated water or accidentally ingesting water while swimming are common sources of human infection. That’s why it’s important we keep our water in White Clay Crypto-free.

interesting facts about crypto:

  • The word crypto comes from a Greek word meaning "hidden", and the word spore meaning "germ". So Cryptosporidium literally translates to "hidden germ".
  • Crypto is resistant to chlorine and other disinfectants like alcohol gels and hand sanitizers and is also expensive to treat.
  • Crypto is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the U.S. It has been documented in 95 countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Easy things you can do to prevent Crypto from contaminating our drinking water:

  • Maintain your septic system: Pump the tank regularly, conserve water, minimize solids and hazardous materials in the waste stream.
  • Manage animal waste: Pick up after your pets on walks, at parks, and at home.
  • Only rain down the storm drain: No dumping or disposing anything in these, they flow directly to the creek!
You cannot farm in today’s environment and not take care of the environment.
— Barclay Hoopes

Hoopes has actively worked over the years to minimize his farm’s impact on the environment and local water quality. In the video below, he discusses his perspective on the importance of conservation efforts to protect water quality on his New Garden Township farm.

In 2014, Hoopes received funding to apply conservation improvements to another farm he raises cattle on located in the head waters of the Middle Branch of White Clay in Franklin Township.* Improvements included one controlled stream access and pasture fencing to keep the animals from having free access to the creek, and a riparian (stream side) forest buffer to help slow and filter runoff, and reduce manure loading to the nearby creek. In addition to some regrading and redirecting of rain water to keep it out of heavy use areas.

Barclay Hoopes Riparian Buffer
Barclay Hoopes Riparian Buffer

A second manure management and Crypto reduction project took place in December 2014 on a cattle farm in London Grove Township located in the headwaters of the East Branch of White Clay Creek.**  The 1,230 acre dairy farm, owned and operated by landowner Walter Moore, is the second largest dairy farm in Chester County managing nearly 900 mature cows. The project was initiated after a lagoon on the property had been compromised, and manure-contaminated water ran down slope to the adjoining stream. A new upgraded manure containment system was constructed on the property. The new waste storage system assures proper long term storage of animal waste generated on site during long winters and helps to prevent runoff to the stream.

Conservation improvements and upgrades, like those at the Hoopes and Moore farms in Chester County, as well as regular maintenance and upkeep of residential septic systems, help protect the White Clay from harmful pathogens. Minimizing the harmful germs entering our waterways keep it safe for swimming and fishing, and allow our creek, the source of drinking water for over 120,000 people, to remain a healthy and safe choice. We can all do our part, however small it may seem, to keep our local waterways clean for current and future residents to enjoy.

*In addition to the landowner contribution, outside funding sources for the Hoopes farm project include the White Clay Wild & Scenic River Program, United Water Delaware, City of Newark, and the Chester County Conservation District.

**In addition to the landowner contribution, outside funding sources for the Moore farm project include the White Clay Wild & Scenic River Program, United Water Delaware, City of Newark, and the Brandywine Conservancy.