TDEC Lifts Water Contact Advisory for 1.8-mile Segment of Oostanaula Creek

Monday, August 17, 2015 | 3:13pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced today that a water contact advisory for a 1.8- mile section of Oostanaula Creek in Athens, Tenn., has been lifted.

“Lifting the water contact advisory from this particular segment of Oostanaula Creek is exciting news for the citizens of Athens and all of the hard-working people at the state and local level involved in making it happen,” TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said. “Clean water is the lifeblood of our communities, and it is in all of our best interest to keep these streams clean.”

Oostanaula Creek is a tributary to the Hiwassee River, which winds along ridges and valleys of East Tennessee, mostly through rural farm land. A portion of the creek also flows through the City of Athens in McMinn County.

In 1984, an almost three-mile section of Oostanaula Creek was posted against water contact due to excessive levels of E. coli bacteria pathogens. Sources of the elevated pathogens included: inadequately treated effluent from Athens wastewater treatment plant, urban stormwater runoff, chronic collection system overflows, and a high concentration of livestock at an upstream dairy.

Many significant efforts have occurred along the Oostanaula Creek watershed in the last several years to dramatically improve water quality. The area upstream of Athens was the site of one of the very first nonpoint source projects implemented in the region, incorporating agricultural best management practices (BMPs) to restrict cattle access to the stream. A detailed stream mitigation project in the Upper Oostanaula has occurred to reintroduce a more natural flow regime to three tributaries and the main stem. The creek has been recontoured to add meanders where it was previously channelized and native vegetation has been restored within the mitigation project site. 

The Athens Utility Board (AUB) upgraded its former wastewater treatment plant with a state-of-the-art facility that has improved effluent quality, overall capacity and has dramatically lowered the frequency and duration of overflows. Additionally, the City of Athens MS4 program has been very proactive in helping control stormwater runoff that might contain pathogens.