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Water activities in the James, Tuckahoe Creek off-limits after 300,000 gallons of raw sewage leaked

Posted at 11:17 AM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-31 23:08:28-04

GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. -- Recreational water activities in a 12-mile stretch of the James River should be avoided after 300,000 gallons of raw sewage was leaked into Tuckahoe Creek on Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said.

A 40-inch pipe ruptured at the Goochland County Department of Public Utilities, leaking the raw, undiluted sewage into a ditch near River Road that leads to Tuckahoe Creek, according to VDH.

The leak was first reported to the Virginia Emergency Operations Center around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and officials said it was stopped around 11 p.m.

The Goochland Department of Public Utilities will be repairing the section of damaged sewer main this week.

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Map of waterways affected by sewage leak

VDH has advised everyone to avoid water submersion activities — such as swimming, wading and tubing — in the Tuckahoe Creek and the James River from Robious Landing Park to Belle Isle, since the creek runs into it.

Things like boating and fishing are still okay to do, as long as you avoid contact with the water.

VDH said the advisory will be lifted once bacteria levels in these waters are safe for contact again. The Department of Environmental Quality will continue to collect samples of the water for testing.

James River
James River

According to VDH, swallowing contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever.

Contact with the contaminated water also can cause infections of the ears, nose, throat and skin.

To prevent recreational water illnesses due to exposure to sewage release events, VDH said people should:

  • Avoid contact with the waterbodies noted above and observe advisory signage posted at waterbody access points.
  • Avoid any area of the waterbody where there is water with a foul odor, dead or dying fish, or discolored water.
  • Promptly wash skin with soap and water if you cannot avoid contact with water in the vicinity.
  • Seek medical care and notify your practitioner of the waterbody exposure if you experience adverse health effects after contact with the waterbody.