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TDEC Issues Recreational Water Contact Advisory for a Portion of New River in the Big South Fork

Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 12:05pm
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has issued a recreational water contact advisory for the lower portion of the New River, including a section within the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, due to operational failures at the Huntsville, Tenn., sewage treatment plant. 
 
The public is cautioned to avoid recreational uses of this portion of the New River, which is downstream from river mile 14.8.  The advisory pertains to all boating, swimming and fishing. 
 
The Huntsville plant’s membrane filter process has experienced issues, resulting in reduced levels of wastewater treatment.  In addition, two of the three vacuum pumps have shut down.  Because of the proximity of the sewage discharge to the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, the department made the decision to issue the advisory. 
 
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is providing oversight and technical support to the impacted system and will continue monitoring water quality closely. 
 
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, recreational water illnesses, or RWIs, are caused by germs that are spread by swallowing or having other contact with contaminated water.  RWIs cause several types of symptoms, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Even healthy swimmers can get sick from RWIs, but the young, elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.
 
If water contact cannot be avoided, or if you are unsure of the cleanliness of the water you have contacted, the best thing to do is wash with clean water and soap.  Ingestion of contaminated water and exposure to open cuts or scrapes would be the greatest cause for concern from a health standpoint. 
 
Once the sources of bacteriological contamination are stopped there should be no long-term environmental impacts to the river.
 
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