All Stella Bowles of Bridgewater wanted to do was go for a swim in the LaHave River.

The 11-year-old Grade 6 student at Bridgewater Elementary was disappointed when her mother told her it wasn't a good idea because of the sewage being dumped into the river.

She says it was "annoying" because the family home sits right on the river.

"We had no idea it was so polluted," Bowles told CBC's Mainstreet.

The situation prompted her to test the river water for fecal bacteria as part of a science project. She started a Facebook page devoted to the project, and saw one of her posts go viral with more than 1,200 shares. 

Stella Bowles

Bowles put up this warning along the river bank. (Facebook)

She took water samples from the river in Upper LaHave in front of her home, in the community of Dayspring, from Shipyards Landing in Bridgewater, and at the local yacht club.

She said she chose those spots because they were places where her brother went swimming over the summer.  

With the help of a local doctor, the samples were put in an incubator to see if bacteria would grow.

Bowles said she learned that a level of 70 means the water isn't recommended for swimming. At a score of 170, the water shouldn't come in contact with skin. 

She said her first sample didn't work as planned.

"The control sample showed some concerns, so I can't use the data and claim it is right. I am waiting for new supplies and then will redo my testing," Bowles wrote on Facebook.

But she did get some results:

  • sample at the yacht club was 147
  • sample in front of her house was 320
  • sample from Dayspring was 1,010.
  • sample from Shipyard Landing was 3,020

"But I can't go by those because we aren't sure," Bowles said.

Bowles blames the use of straight pipes for the pollution. She said many older homes along the river don't have a septic system and the waste flows directly from the toilet to the river.

"I think they should be gone, I think they should be completely eliminated, they're illegal," she said of the straight pipes.

After more testing, Bowles hopes to learn if the river is safe for swimming. In the meantime, she put up a sign by the wharf near her home.

"It says 'this river is contaminated with fecal bacteria,'" she explained.