People taking a swim in the James say they were unaware of health advisory

People taking a swim in the James say they were unaware of health advisory
Posted at 12:08 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 00:08:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Multiple people could be seen taking a swim in the James River near Brown's Island Thursday afternoon, despite the Virginia Department of Health warning against getting in the water after they said 300,000 gallons of raw sewage was leaked into Tuckahoe Creek.

People who spoke with CBS 6, said they had no idea that was the case and had not seen any signs posted to warn them.

"We just got done swimming in the water," said Trin Seay, adding that she was concerned after learning the news. "That's really not good. Not good at all."

Mike Leland said he almost made the same mistake.

"Short of you saying something to me we never would’ve known," said Leland. "With raw sewage and people swimming, yes, there should be signs."

The Virginia Department of Health said the leak happened Tuesday evening, but the alert didn’t go out until Thursday.

Margaret Smigo, VDH's Waterborne Hazards Coordinator, said they needed time to evaluate the issue and coordinate with localities.

As for signage, Smigo said they should be going up at the main arteries of popular river sites.

"That effort of getting signage posted at so many sites does not happen immediately, as you might imagine. They have to be printed laminated and then posted," said Smigo. "And so, they are being posted. The majority of that work happened today. There are many access points to the river."

In the meantime, she said the VDH was continuing to work with the Department of Environmental Quality to evaluate and determine the bacterial impact.

She said DEQ was expecting to receive analytical results from the water samples they collected Thursday night, and VDH expected to have an update on that by midday Friday.

"Until we get results, we wanted to be conscious of public safety. And so, once we get results, we are hoping to amend that advisory," said Smigo.

Smigo said those who had already been in the water during that time should monitor symptoms and seek a medical professional if concerned about their symptoms.

"Let them know about their water body exposure that occurred in one of these advisory areas. That will help the medical provider provide more accurate treatment and diagnosis," said Smigo

Smigo said symptoms could vary based on exposure but could include redness, irritation, inflammation, or oozing.

She also said gastrointestinal symptoms were common like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In the meantime, Jo Ann Hunter, Deputy County Administrator for Community and Economic Development and Public Utilities at Goochland County, Virginia, sent the following information regarding the sewer main repairs

"At this time the cause of the break is unknown but is being investigated by contractor making repairs. All standing wastewater is being pumped out and will be disposed of at a wastewater treatment plant. We will also be neutralizing and elevated bacteria levels in the vicinity. The county is working on the Department of Environmental Quality for the clean-up."

Hunter added that repair and clean-up should be completed by Saturday.

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