TDEC Issues Contact Advisory Due to Pathogens at Trace Creek, Wilson Branch in Clay County

Thursday, September 07, 2023 | 10:56am

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) today issued an advisory telling the public to avoid contact with Trace Creek and Wilson Branch in Clay County due to pathogens in the water.

The water contact advisory is issued for Trace Creek from the Old Gamaliel Road bridge to the Max Bean Road bridge. The advisory for Wilson Branch is from the branch’s origin to its confluence with Trace Creek.

“In the interest of public health, people are advised to avoid contact with the water in these areas,” said Greg Young, deputy commissioner of TDEC. “We take this step due to the threat found in the waters, and we will continue to monitor them to ensure public safety.”

TDEC received several complaints regarding impact to the water quality in Trace Creek and Wilson Branch coming from the Browning Farm, an unpermitted concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). In August, TDEC collected pathogen samples throughout the watershed near the Hermitage Springs community. Based on the data collected, TDEC’s Division of Water Resources technical staff recommended that the contact advisory be issued.

E. coli samples collected on Trace Creek ranged from 3,840 MPN/100ml (most probable number per 100 milliliters) to 141,460 MPN/100ml. Also in August, E. coli samples collected on Wilson Branch ranged from 740 MPN/100ml to 241,960 MPN/100ml. The data suggest that the water contact advisory should be issued as TDEC continues to investigate the matter.

The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act identifies the commissioner of TDEC as having the responsibility to inform the public when health risks from either water contact or fish consumption exceed acceptable levels. TDEC inspects waters where good cause is shown that the public health is threatened by pollutants in the waters, and, upon verification by the commissioner, post signs to give notice of the potential or actual dangers of specific uses of the waters or restrictions of uses of the waters.