Dust off that old kiddie pool or move your weekend river plans to the beach. Virginia Department of Health (VDH) officials are warning that people and pets should avoid swimming or wading in the James River, after gallons of “raw, undiluted sewage” leaked into it this week.
Nearly 300,000 gallons of sewage spilled into Tuckahoe Creek Tuesday night from a Goochland County sewer line. The Goochland County Department of Public Utilities shut off the 40-inch pipe less than four hours later, but Tuckahoe Creek was already overly contaminated. The VDH issued an official advisory on Thursday, July 29th, telling people to avoid contact with the river.
The water advisory applies to Tuckahoe Creek starting at River Road and the James River from Robious Landing Park in Chesterfield, Goochland, and Henrico counties to Belle Isle in Richmond. Officials are warning that swallowing contaminated water from the river could cause gastrointestinal illnesses with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, or even fever. External contact could cause, “infections of the ears, nose, throat, and skin.”
Activities that avoid direct contact with water like boating, fishing, and canoeing may continue through the advisory, though officials are still urging people to proceed with caution.
According to officials, drinking water is unaffected at this point. They plan to lift the advisory based on bacteria levels in the water once they are back in a safe range.