Environment and Conservation Lifts Water Contact Advisory for Leadvale Creek
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has lifted a water contact advisory for Leadvale Creek, a small tributary to Douglas Lake in Jefferson County. The water contact advisory was originally issued in 1986 due to historical operational problems at a municipal sewage treatment plant.
Due to improvements at White Pine Sewage Treatment Plant, the relocation of the historical discharge point for the town, and installation of best management practices to control livestock runoff, pathogen levels in Leadvale Creek have been lowered to the extent that the warnings to avoid contact with the creek are no longer necessary.
The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act requires that the department post signs and inform the public when bacteria in water or contaminants in sediment or fish tissue cause public health to be unduly at risk from exposure. In 1986, elevated fecal coliform levels were found in Leadvale Creek, a tributary to Douglas Lake. The elevated levels of pathogens were of particular concern because of the potential for the public to come in contact with this stream near White Pine. Due to this elevated risk, the public was advised to avoid contact with Leadvale Creek.
In response to this public health issue, White Pine accelerated plans to upgrade their sewage treatment plant and move the discharge away from the creek. When those improvements were completed, the pathogen levels in the creek improved but were still elevated due to runoff from the town, plus livestock at area farms. A partnership between the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the Jefferson County Soil Conservation District, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Jefferson County government collaborated to assist landowners with the installation of conservation practices such as livestock exclusion fencing in this watershed, which helped prevent animal wastes from entering the stream. As a direct result of these efforts, recent sampling by TDEC has documented that pathogens are low enough that the advisory can be formally removed.
TDEC will continue to monitor area streams and staff will begin removing the posted warning signs in the area.