BENTON, Tenn. — Polk County’s government is warning rafters, kayakers and others who paddle or swim in the Ocoee River about the possible health risks of contact with the water.
The County Commission passed a resolution Thursday night to warn users of the Ocoee of possible contamination.
Action earlier this month by the Tennessee Valley Authority resulted in a massive volume of mucky sludge that had collected behind one of TVA’s dams on the river to be dumped into the stream bed.
Officials speculate the muck could contain heavy metals and PCBs, although there is currently no proof of contamination or health risk.
Commission Chairman Greg Brooks said today the warning resolution is a way for the county to protect itself against possible lawsuits in the future.
He said testing is still under way, and there is a definite possibility contamination could be an issue. Mr. Brooks said commissioners want users of the river to know there could be a risk.
The area was long famous for the environmental scar developed in the Copper Basin after generations of copper mining.
It has become a popular white water boating destination, though, with more than 200,000 taking commercial outfitter rafting trips each year. It was also the venue for kayaking during the 1996 Olympics.
Mr. Brooks said the county doesn’t want to hurt the rafting business, especially since it brings tourists to the county, but also needs to protect Polk County taxpayers from possible lawsuits.