Water quality improving after heavy rain, two sewage spills in the Catawba River

YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - The Catawba Riverkeeper says the water quality in the Catawba River is steadily getting better, but it is still not safe enough to lift no-swim advisories.

Sam Perkins says the Catawba Riverkeeper and Mecklenburg County have been testing the bacteria levels in Lake Wylie following last week's sewage spill, in which 15.4 million gallons of raw sewage seeped into the river. Then on Sunday a second, but lesser, sewage spill was reported. This time 27,000 gallons spilled into the river.

Still, Perkins says, it's hard to tell if the sewage is the sole cause of high levels of bacteria in the river.

"You typically see high bacteria levels after a rain event, just from animal waste, pet waste, but it's hard to tell how much came from the sewage spill or just the excess rain," Perkins said.

He says at one point bacteria levels were around 1,000 CFU/100ml. It needs to be less than 200CFU/100ml to lift the no-swim order.

Perkins expects this week's warm weather to help dissipate the bacteria.

"We have a lot of sunlight, turbidity is starting to decrease as that sediment settles out. Bacteria can hide behind it, sunlight helps kill it," Perkins said.

Meanwhile, the City of Rock Hill reopened the Riverwalk and River Park kayak launches Tuesday after they were closed for nearly a week.

Signs posted at the kayak launches said the closure was due to high water levels. Since heavy rain moved through the area last week, the river was at or above full pond in most places. Debris and fast-moving water was a threat to kayakers.

The reopening was good news for Twisted Beaver River Adventures. Owner Brad Grishaber says his business was already down from the cold weather this year, but it dropped further with the closure.

"All year business has been down 70 percent, the last week it's been down 90 to 95 percent," Grishaber said. "We try to account for bad weather and such, but it's kind of stretching it this year because it's gone on longer than it has."

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