South Carolina’s public health agency said Monday a popular swimming and tubing river near Columbia remains under a swimming advisory despite lower E.Coli readings than last week.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) initially warned swimmers to stay out of the water near Saluda Shoals Park after tests found “higher than normal bacteria levels” over the weekend. Sunday’s sample showed the E. coli level near the offending discharge pipe were 8.5, below the trigger of 349. However, the agency said the advisory remains in effect “out of an abundance of caution.” Additional sampling was taken Monday.
Swimmers, tubers, and kayakers frequent the river just northwest of Columbia, but the Saluda has frequent problems with contamination due to improperly treated wastewater from the Friarsgate Wastewater Treatment Plant operated by Carolina Water Services (CWS).
Under a swim advisory, the agency warns against any type of activities in the river where swallowing water is a possibility. Temporary warning signs have been placed in the affected area. E. coli infections can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.
DHEC said CWS notified regulators of operational problems which caused a significant bacteria level in the plant effluent. The utility stopped discharging Friday afternoon and instead used its onsite storage facilities to redirect plant flow. DHEC said, once the plant began operating normally again, its observers found the treated wastewater was clear. However, the river sample collected Saturday evening indicated elevated bacteria which triggered the swimming advisory.
The agency said it’s “uncertain as to whether the higher than normal bacteria levels were due to rainfall or other factors.”