(Richmond, VA) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is issuing a recreational water advisory for all of Tuckahoe Creek beginning at River Road, including the Eastern and Western Branches of Tuckahoe Creek, and the James River from Robious Landing Park in Chesterfield, Goochland, and Henrico counties to Belle Isle in the City of Richmond. For the safety of people and pets, VDH is advising that recreational water activities, such as swimming, wading, tubing, and whitewater kayaking (where submersion in the water is likely), should be avoided. The advisory is issued out of an abundance of caution due to a sewage release from a Goochland County Department of Public Utilities sewer force main on July 27 into Tuckahoe Creek.
On the evening of July 27, it was first reported at approximately 7:30 p.m. to the Virginia Emergency Operations Center that a 40-inch force main ruptured near River Road, causing the release of sewage to a ditch, which outfalls to Tuckahoe Creek. The release was stopped at approximately 11 p.m. on July 27. Goochland County estimates that 300,000 gallons of raw, undiluted sewage was released to Tuckahoe Creek.
The creek travels approximately 3.75 miles along the mainstem and the Eastern Tuckahoe Branch to its confluence with the James River near Robious Landing in Henrico, Goochland, and Chesterfield counties. Tuckahoe Creek travels approximately six miles along the mainstem and the Western Tuckahoe Branch to its confluence with the James River near the Chippenham Parkway bridge crossing. To ensure public safety in this high-recreational use waterbody, the advisory extends from the James River at Robious Landing Park to include all of Belle Isle (approximately 12 miles of the James River).
Activities on the waterbodies, which are not likely to result in water submersion (boating, fishing, canoeing), may continue with proper caution to avoid contact with the water.
VDH has observed no evidence of impacts to drinking water at this time.
Goochland Department of Public Utilities will be repairing the section of damaged sewer main this week. No sewage is currently being released to waterways. The Department of Environmental Quality is working to collect samples on Tuckahoe Creek, where accessible, and the James River in the areas noted above, to monitor the bacteria concentrations as the sewage release moves through these waterbodies. Advisories will be lifted once bacteria levels in these vicinities are at levels acceptable for recreational contact.
Swallowing contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever. Contact with 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, 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.
For more information on recreational water safety, see “Safely Enjoy Virginia’s Natural Waters” and other materials at www.SwimHealthyVA.com.
NOTE: The attached warning signs will be posted at water access points accessible to the public. If private landowners within the vicinity of the advisory would like to post the below signage at their water access points, they may print, laminate, and post the signage.