Swimming in Sewage

On behalf of the Yadkin Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center gave notice to the City of Thomasville for violations of the federal Clean Water Act for repeatedly discharging untreated sewage from its wastewater system into waterways in the Yadkin River Basin.

In the summer of 2009, a single sewage spill reportedly lasted several days and discharged more than 15.9 million gallons of wastewater into a tributary of Hamby Creek, eventually entering Abbotts Creek and High Rock Lake. At the time, Thomasville only reported a 385,000 gallon spill which prompted an investigation by Yadkin Riverkeeper after receiving a tip from a Thomasville plant employee. Yadkin Riverkeeper’s findings led to an EPA investigation. Thomasville later assured Yadkin Riverkeeper and the general public they would address their failing sewage system.  

Since September 2009, Thomasville has reported 144 additional sanitary sewer overflow episodes that discharged nearly three million gallons of additional untreated sewage, 2,844,418 gallons of which reached local waterways—almost 19 million gallons of raw sewage over the last four years. Thomasville’s sewage spills eventually flow into Abbotts Creek, and eventually into High Rock Lake, waterways that the state has already determined to be impaired by pollution.

Thomasville’s discharges are prohibited under the Federal Clean Water Act.  The state Division of Water Quality has periodically fined Thomasville for the discharges, but has not taken any comprehensive enforcement action to address the pattern of violations. “Millions of gallons of Thomasville sewage dumped into streams leading to the Yadkin River and High Rock Lake which means fecal coliform, viruses, and disease-causing bacteria now contaminate those waters, threatening public health,” said Dean Naujoks, Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Yadkin Riverkeeper. “Downstream residents should not have to worry about their children swimming in sewage and getting sick. Fishable, swimmable, drinkable water is a fundamental right granted to every citizen under the Clean Water Act.”

Full news articles below.
Thomasville faces sewer suit, High Point Enterprise