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Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
CREATED: 09/24/12 by wculleton REPLIES: 14
wculleton's ravatar wculleton    JOINED: 9/17/12    POSTS: 6
Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/24/12 6:08 PM

Hey All,

My name is Billy, I just joined DC Tri and I wanted to know if anyone was doing Battle of the Potomac on 9/30. Also, wanted to know if people got sick from the water at Nations and if it's a cause for concern come Sunday.


rtroll's ravatar rtroll    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 510
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/24/12 6:17 PM

Hey Billy, welcome to the club! I'll be down there racing. Water quality IMO is normally not a huge issue. We had over 500 club members racing Nation's a few weeks ago, including myself, and so far no horror stories of people getting sick!

If you haven't already signed up, be sure to take advantage of the club's discount for Setup Events races. You can find all of our club's race discounts under the race section on the left hand navigation on the site.

We'll see you out there!

President, DC Tri Club

kst718's ravatar kst718    JOINED: 8/29/11    POSTS: 110
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/24/12 7:40 PM

Hi Billy-- I have been in the lovely Potomac a dozen times or so without getting sick, though it definitely turned a few swim suits brown. I recommend drinking an Emergen-C or other vitamin C source before and/or after to beef up your immune system. Good luck!

wculleton's ravatar wculleton    JOINED: 9/17/12    POSTS: 6
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/24/12 8:05 PM

I appreciate the warm welcome Ryan! I'm excited to finally get back in the swing of things. The only reason that I asked about the water is because I've heard of several people getting really sick from Nations the other week (not that that would stop me from racing). Thanks again for getting back to me!


jbrez's ravatar jbrez    JOINED: 1/30/11    POSTS: 303
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/24/12 11:03 PM

I'd question the credibility of those people who claimed to get really sick from Nation's this year.

pmart15's ravatar pmart15    JOINED: 12/14/09    POSTS: 149
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/25/12 9:46 AM

I got sick after Nation's. Whether it was a result of the Potomac or not who knows. I was in there for a long time, am a new swimmer, I exerted myself as did everyone else that day so my immune system was weak, its possible but I wouldn't not race because of it either. And yes, I have a credibility problem :).

morunner66's ravatar morunner66    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 728
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/25/12 10:08 AM

Hi Guys -

I did Nations and have been in the Potomac all summer long on my paddle board and jumping in the Potomac. Didn't get sick all summer long.

Good luck at Battle of the Potomac. Contemplating Waterman 1/2 Aquavelo in October a bit further down the Potomac...

jbrez's ravatar jbrez    JOINED: 1/30/11    POSTS: 303
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/25/12 10:12 AM

I won't say it never happens, but I would think it would be more widely reported if there was a lot of people getting sick. Particularly with as many people as Nation's hosts.

There was a problem with where Redman was hosted in Oklahoma City a few years ago, and because of it they no longer do the swim in the river. According to the article the State Health dept. interviewed all 367 participants but didn't really find anything conclusive. This article from WaPo basically says the same thing, the Potomac isn't good after heavy rain.

I guess I just dislike when people slam the Potomac for being a dirty river. Typically it's the non-triathletes, but I don't think any river is safe to swim in after rain. Otherwise, the Potomac is perfectly safe for swimming.

xennus's ravatar xennus    JOINED: 1/21/12    POSTS: 7
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/25/12 4:01 PM

Hi All,

I stayed quiet about this mostly because I thought people would think I was making things up (and still might). I consumed water during the swim at Nations. I had symptoms within approx 2 hours. I waited several days thinking it would go away but it didn't plus I liked the idea of easy weight loss. I went for testing and my doctor told me the bacteria that caused me to get sick is Blastocystis hominis. Normally symptoms don't last very long but I must be a great host b/c they didn't want to leave.

Would I swim in the Potomac again? yes but I might consider a snorkel unless I want to drop a few more pounds again.


xennus's ravatar xennus    JOINED: 1/21/12    POSTS: 7
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/25/12 4:25 PM

We had a heavy rain the day before. Perhaps that could be the reason for the dirty water. I definitely haven't been drinking from the toilet so that can't be it.

malloyrobert's ravatar malloyrobert    JOINED: 1/21/12    POSTS: 15
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/27/12 9:55 AM

I had the flu the entire week leading up to nations, headache, nauseau, chills etc. Something was running rampant around our office and many people were saying some fall allergies were in full swing. Had I gotten that the week after Nations - I might have blamed the river (yes I did the triathlon with a very weekend immune system). So I'd like to trust our EPA and water testers. They have had swims at National Harbor every thursday all summer with increasing numbers of participants... Had there been some serious issue I think we'd know.

04swiger's ravatar 04swiger    JOINED: 6/21/10    POSTS: 25
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/27/12 2:52 PM

Not to continue to be gross, but swimming in untreated water will always carry risks, so swimmers should be informed. First, at National Harbor, you are swimming downstream not only in Potomac River water, but also water that has been mixed with water from the Anacostia River. I know someone who used to row in the Anacostia and got sick from the water. All those 5 cent bag fees in DC?--they are used to clean up the Anacostia. Second, DC's septic/sewer infrastructure cannot handle overflow after a rain storm. As a result, sewage is let out in to the river for about 48 hours following a heavy rain. DC is working on a holding tank structure that can contain overflow from a storm until it can be properly processed, but it won't be completed until 2025 or some time well into the future. Until then.... Third to Tommy's response above, Blastocystis hominis is actually a protozoa and is an intestinal parasite. I just wanted to point this out because another friend (who also does open water swimming) contracted different protozoa, Giardia. This is also an intestinal parasite and these probably come from sewage. Anyway open water swimming is awesome but everyone should know the risks.

xennus's ravatar xennus    JOINED: 1/21/12    POSTS: 7
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/28/12 11:45 AM

my doc told me they found 3 in my system but thinks the one that caused the main problem is the one I mentioned.

I swam several times at the Harbor without any issues which again makes me think it is because of the heavy rain on Saturday.

jberlow's ravatar jberlow    JOINED: 4/16/12    POSTS: 40
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/28/12 3:56 PM

I heard from my doctor today. I wanted to hold off on posting unti I found out for sure. I have giardia (parasite). The only reason, I post is because I just want to urge anyone else who felt sick after and then felt better to think about going to see a doctor. You can feel better and then get worse. It's a serious infection, and not something to joke around with. It saps your energy.

This was my first triathlon and I loved it. And I plan on continuing the hobby with precautions with open water swimming. I am going to pass on Nation's, next year because it's clear how dirty the Potomac is as opposed to a lake. I agree with the comment above, I knew the risks of swimming in open water.

dremilyshin's ravatar dremilyshin    JOINED: 8/1/11    POSTS: 6
RE: Battle of the Potomac (Water quality )
POSTED: 9/28/12 7:57 PM

I got so sick I had to go home from work - could barely stand up in the operating room, nauseous, light headed, diarrhea for a couple weeks, etc., still not quite normal but definitely improved... however, something was definitely going around, as one of my attendings was puking his guts out during clinic the previous Friday and the following evening so did the boyfriend... and neither of them drank water from the Potomac, so I'm thinking my sickness was likely a result from a GI virus rather than a parasite.

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