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Portion of Cherokee Lake still unsafe for swimming | Environment

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Portion of Cherokee Lake still unsafe for swimming
Environment, Health, News
Portion of Cherokee Lake still unsafe for swimming

Four days after sewage overflowed into Cherokee Lake, swimmers are still urged not to swim in one section of the water. 

A car accident caused a power outage at the Spring Creek pump station in Morristown on Labor Day. The outage resulted in 90,000 gallons of sewage seeping into the lake.

About a half mile away from the spill is Cherokee Park campground and Hamblen County Boat Dock, a popular spot for swimmers, boaters, and fishermen.

The city of Morristown contracts with Veolia Water to treat their sewage. Since the spill, they have been testing the water in five spots around the lake.

On Monday, tests showed the levels of E. coli, a bacteria that can cause serious infection, were too high to even measure downstream from the spill. The latest test results on Thursday show those levels have come down now but are still considered high.

Around the boat dock and campground, Veolia reported an increase in E. coli levels since Monday. However, they consider them to be "low levels" of the bacteria.

They will continue testing through the weekend and signs warning against swimming will remain.

People who live in house boats on the water at the Hamblen County Boat Dock say they've heeded the warnings.

Sharon Hamilton, who typically waters her dog from the lake and eats the fish, says she's not touching it until the signs come down.

"There's no smell. You don't see it but if it's testing positive for E. coli, we could all get sick from it. It doesn't affect our drinking water, but it's still warm and you can't get in and swim or nothing," Hamilton said.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has allowed the city to remove the warning signs from the Turkey Creek Boat Ramp and Grainger County Boat Ramps because those areas were not affected.

TDEC said they did not find a "do not consume" fish advisory necessary.

They believe there will be no long-term environmental impacts to the river.

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