Local environmentalists say they are keeping a close eye on a flooded sewer line in Jefferson City off Boyd Spring branch that has been dumping water, and possibly waste, into Cherokee Lake.
George Proios, president of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, said last week he would be conducting testing to see how much the lake has been effected from the overflow.
“Tuesday we start our monthly water sampling program so I will be interested to see if the total and fecal coliform levels will still be high,” he said.
Jefferson City officials said last week they are trying to assess a situation where water is flowing out of a manhole off the Boyd Spring branch of Cherokee Lake.
Residents have complained to the city that they believe raw sewage is being dumped into the lake from the lines flooded by the rising water table.
Jefferson City Manager John Johnson said he does not believe that’s the case.
“It’s groundwater that’s running out,” he said. “It’s the rainwater. It’s the floodwater.”
He said the heavy rainfall that occurred in February that brought more than a foot of rain in the area is leading to the overflows. He said that area along Cherokee Lake is one of the last places still inundated with floodwater.
But Johnson said he couldn’t guarantee 100 percent there’s no raw sewage within the water that’s now draining into the lake.
In published reports, residents complained of paper products and unpleasant odors associated with the overflow.
Johnson said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is aware of the situation at Boyd Spring branch.
Eric Ward, spokesman for TDEC, confirmed that the state was aware of the situation.
He said once the water decreases in the area the city will need to look at solutions to remedy the problem in the future.
“TDEC will work with the city to assess any impacts to the environment once the water table returns to normal levels, including sampling the water quality of Cherokee Lake,” Ward said.
Ward said the reason they want to wait until normal levels is because it would provide a more accurate reading.
Ward said many systems in the region experienced overflows due to the heavy rain and said much of the rain destroyed equipment and kept utilities from being able to assess the extent of their situations.
He said if any upgrades to water or wastewater are needed the state offers low-interest loans.
Johnson said it’s hard to assess the situation right now because there is so much water in the area and the floodwater has inundated the lines.
“When you’re covered with water, you’re limited on your abilities,” Johnson said.
He said the system was put into the area about 18 years ago and has never seen this amount of water run through it.
Johnson said once the water recedes enough to be able to get people and equipment into the system then the city will have a better understanding of what it needs to do in the future to fix the situation.
“We’re fighting the floodwater,” he said.
Donna Dunn, president of the Cherokee Lake User’s Association, said her group has concerns. She said she’s concerned about anything that may not dissolve rapidly ending up in Cherokee Lake.
“My concern is about the trash going into the water,” she said. “It’s going to remain. It’s not going to dissolve.”