Spill site continues to show elevated levels of E-coli

Spill site continues to show elevated levels of E-coli

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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

MORRISTOWN (WATE) - A crash in Morristown earlier this week caused a domino effect that's still going on today.  

It started with an SUV hitting a utility pole Monday night that knocked out power to a sewage pumping facility - which then dumped untreated sewage into a nearby stream.  

An estimated 94,000 gallons of untreated sewage poured into Cherokee Lake during a 47-minute power interruption to the Spring Creek sewer lift station.  

The stream runs into Cherokee Lake and for the last several days, signs have been posted warning people to avoid the water in certain areas.  

"Just avoid contact with these waters until we remove those postings," said Ralph Fielder, Morristown's assistant city administrator.  

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the levels of bacteria were higher than normal in the area around Cherokee Park in Hamblen County.

TDEC Spokesperson Meg Lockhart said storm water from Monday may have impacted those results.  

Lockhart said test results from Tuesday showed lower levels of bacteria than the samples taken on Monday. Hamblen County boat dock and Spring Creek showed the highest levels of bacteria, according to Lockhart.  

The city of Morristown has six different monitoring points, 2 located on the creek and 4 on Cherokee Lake.  

Health advisories will remain posted in the area, which includes the Hamblen County Boat Dock.

Officials do expect levels to return back to normal by the weekend. Many residents are taking precautions.  

"We just didn't want to get water because how nasty it would be," said Mary Lynn Johnson, a Grainger County resident.    

A similar power configuration resulted in much larger sewage spills at the wastewater-treatment plant west of Highway 25E in June 2011.

The largest spill resulted in 1.25 million gallons of raw sewage being spilled.  

Fielder said the lack of auxiliary power at lift stations is to blame for the overflows and spills.  

"Just because you lose power doesn't mean the wastewater doesn't stop flowing into the station," said Fielder.    

In the wake of the incident, the city is in the process of completing a "Sewer Overflow Response Plan" or SORP.  

The city has already been conducting studies of how to improve the sewer system. Morristown city council is expecting a report at its next meeting on Sep 18.  

 The Morristown City Council approved on Tuesday $95,340 for engineering services for upgrades to the plant's digesters, which have been a bottleneck in the facility's operation.

Council also approved spending up to approximately $130,000 for additional upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.  

Meanwhile-- TWRA sent out a notice Thursday about a fish kill near Cherokee Dam - that does not appear to be connected with the spill.  

TWRA said it's most likely due to a lack of dissolved oxygen where water temperatures are in the fish's range.

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