Environmental Protection

Emory River Opens for Recreation as Coal Ash Cleanup Continues

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on Aug. 30 shortened the no-wake zone on the Emory River. The main river channel is accessible to the public, but caution is advised.

The Emory River channel has been marked as a fully enforced no-wake zone by TVA Police under Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) authority from mile marker 2.1 to 1.8. Large equipment remains in the intake channel with booms separating it from the main river channel.

The initial river closure began on Aug. 11, 2009, and was last extended through May 15, 2010. The U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and TVA reevaluated river operations and concluded that an extension to the closure area was necessary for continued public safety. Emory River reopened on May 29, 2010.

For safety reasons, no trespassing signs have been posted along shorelines of the recovery site. The public will not be allowed in work zones. EPA, in consultation with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Tennessee Department of Health, has determined that any coal ash remaining in the river presents minimal health risks to recreational users.

Casual contact with ash in the river should not cause skin irritation, although long-term contact could result in some irritation from sand-like particles in the ash. River users are therefore advised to wash after exiting the river, especially in areas where ash is clearly visible.
Individuals requiring further information or instructions regarding recreational use of Watts Bar Reservoir should contact EPA Community Involvement Coordinator, Stephanie Y. Brown at 1.877.718.3752 or 865.717.1635.

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