Swimmers eye water after James River sewage spill

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jul 04, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-05 08:25:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Heavy rain and massive power outages after last weekend's storms are still affecting much of the state, including the James River.

When the power was knocked out at a wastewater treatment plant in Lynchburg, it caused partially untreated sewage to overflow and dump into the James River.

According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, 2.6 million gallons of partially untreated sewage flowed into the river. And the mess is now making its way down the James towards Richmond.

CBS 6 News' Greg McQuade caught up with folks swimming in the river Wednesday. Many were unaware of the spill -- or the potential risks.

Many Richmonders flocked to the banks of the James River for a little relief Wednesday.

But the swimmers in the James are watching the water a little closer these days after the raw sewage release.

Brittany Burkett and her family were just wrapping up a visit to their new favorite spot near Tredegar when they learned the news of the sewage making its way to Richmond.

"I don't have that much form of a reference to understand what that much sewage does to a river, but it doesn't sound good," said Burkett. "It doesn't make me feel good to know my children, husband were just swimming in it."

Sixteen-year-old Ryan Jackson from Henrico visits the James nearly every day during the summer. When he found out about the sewage in the water he thought twice about going back in.

"I wish they had a sign telling people about it," said Ryan.

You would need to pour a six gallon bucket filled with sewage 433,333 times into the river to equal 2.6 million gallons.

Additionally, the VA Dept. of Environmental Quality said the health risk from the sewage is low and that the James will naturally filter the contaminated water during its 141 mile trip from Lynchburg to Richmond.

Krystal Booth and her two children were cooling off in the James during this Independence Day. Krystal said she is concerned, but it is not going to stop her from relaxing in the water.

"Yes, of course I'm concerned about that especially with my kids out here with me," said Booth. "But if it doesn't look dangerous I'll keep swimming."