KALAMAZOO, MI – No-Contact Health Advisory Lifted for St. Joseph County River
A “no-contact” health advisory has been lifted for the St. Joseph County River 11 days after officials found sewage spilling into the waterway.
Sewage Spill Contaminates St. Joseph River
Approximately 500,000 gallons of untreated wastewater, including fecal matter, were discharged into the river on Friday, July 7. The spill was discovered by the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency.
Delayed Notification Causes Public Health Concern
Due to a miscommunication from the city of Three Rivers, the local health department was not informed of the incident until several days later. Subsequently, the public was advised to avoid any contact with the river until water sampling could confirm safe levels.
Health Advisory Lifted
On Tuesday afternoon, July 18, the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency announced the lifting of the no-contact health advisory.
Safe Recreational Activities Restored
Residents are once again allowed to utilize the St. Joseph River for recreational purposes, according to the health agency.
Water Sampling and Results
Water samples collected by personnel from the Three Rivers Wastewater Treatment Plant on July 14 and July 17 were reported to health officials on July 15 and July 18. Initial sampling showed excessive levels of E. coli, which prompted the no-contact order to remain in place.
However, the latest results indicate that the St. Joseph River now contains expected levels of fecal coliform, as stated in a news release by health officials.
Spill Location and Impact
The spill occurred near the Broadway Street Bridge, just east of downtown Three Rivers. As a precautionary measure, people are advised to avoid the river from that location southward, at least until Constantine. From Constantine, the St. Joseph River continues to flow through South Bend, Indiana, before reentering Michigan through St. Joseph and ultimately flowing into Lake Michigan.
Kayakers Unaware of Contamination Risk
The owner of a kayak rental company on the St. Joseph River stated that they were not notified of the potentially hazardous contamination levels until July 10, several days after people had already been kayaking in the affected area.