Scientist kicks off 652 mile swim of the Tennessee River

Local News

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A German professor is attempting to swim the entire length of the Tennessee River, all in the name of science. Over the next 31 days, Professor Andreas Fath and his team will be participating in the TenneSwim to study water quality.

“I want to reach people and I want to make people aware of water quality, of their impact on water quality,” said Professor Andreas Fath from Furtwangen University in Germany.

From the river dock at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville to Paducah, Kentucky, Fath will swim a total of 20 miles, eight hours each day, collecting samples along the way. His goal is to complete the entire length of the Tennessee River – all 652 miles of it.

His journey began on Thursday. In a tour with media, Prof. Fath swam one mile of the river. In his quick observations, he said the water is clean enough to swim. He will also be looking at chemicals, pharmaceuticals and microplastics. His team wants to make people aware of their influence by polluting.

“We have an impact of reducing the amount of plastics in our nature and our waterways,” said Fath.

This isn’t the first time the German professor has taken on a river. He broke the world record in 2014 for speed swimming the Rhine River from the Swiss Alps to the North Sea.

Fath adds, “I’m very curious of the comparison of these two rivers.”

If completed as planned, Fath’s swim will break another world record and it will be the most extensive water quality survey ever conducted in the Tennessee River.

The professor already has one prediction of what he’ll find. He expects to see significantly higher concentrations of phosphate because the use of lawn fertilizer is more common in the United States than in Germany.

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