VDH Issues Update for Recreational Water Advisory in Tuckahoe Creek and Parts of the James River Due to Sewage Release

July 30, 2021

For questions about the health advisory: Brookie Crawford, Public Information Officer, Central Region, VDH,  brookie.crawford@vdh.virginia.gov

For questions about the sewer main repairs: Matt Longshore, Director, Goochland Department of Public Utilities, mlongshore@goochlandva.us

For questions about sampling: Gregory Bilyeu, Public Information Officer, Department of Environmental Quality, Gregory.Bilyeu@deq.virginia.gov

VDH Issues Update for Recreational Water Advisory in Tuckahoe Creek and Parts of the James River Due to Sewage Release

Public Advised to Continue to Avoid Contact with Contaminated Water

(Richmond, VA) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is issuing an update for the recreational water advisory issued July 29 for 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. Sampling results collected by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on July 28 indicate the need to maintain the advisory due to high levels of fecal bacteria in Tuckahoe Creek, which may impact portions of the James River of high recreational use.

The sample results at the time of the collection do not indicate that raw sewage concentrations were present in the James River itself, but were concentrated within the creek. This advisory is maintained in an abundance of caution due to the concentration and volume of sewage released into the creek, and its potential to be transported to the James River.

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 continue to be avoided over the weekend. Additional samples are scheduled to be collected on Monday, August 2, weather permitting, by DEQ to re-evaluate the extent of the sewage impact. Laboratory results for samples are expected on August 3, and VDH plans to issue an update to this advisory on August 4.

On the evening of July 27, a Goochland County Public Utilities force main ruptured near River Road, causing the release of an estimated 300,000 gallons of raw, undiluted sewage to a ditch, which outfalls to Tuckahoe Creek. The release was stopped at approximately 11 p.m. on July 27. Repairs of the force main are underway and anticipated to be completed by the evening of July 30.  Additional work to recover ponded sewage at the site is being conducted and will continue on a 24-7 schedule through the weekend.

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. 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.

The advisory 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.

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NOTE: The attached warning sign are 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.

Sign warning not to go in water due to health threat/Warning sign en espanol