“Very alarming:” Environmental group warning of high levels of E.coli in Chattahoochee River

An environmental group that monitors the Chattahoochee River said you should avoid the water from Atlanta all the way to Heard County because of high levels of E. Coli bacteria.

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Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen was along the river in Cobb County Friday, where officials with the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper said drinking water is safe but if you come into contact with the water, you risk things like rashes, gastrointestinal tract trouble or eye and ear infections.

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Jason Ulseth,  executive director of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said the smartest thing you can do along the river for now is keep your distance.

“The levels we are seeing are through the roof going into the river right now,” Ulseth said.

Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management sent Channel 2 Action News at statement, saying that recent heavy rain caused some mechanical failures at the Clayton plant, which are being repaired. The agency said there has not been a sewer spill.

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The state’s Environmental Protection Division said they are coordinating with the city and are investigating. Neither agency has advised the public to avoid the river, but Riverkeeper has, for 70 miles from Atlanta all the way to West Point Lake.

“This is 80 million gallons of partially or under-treated sewage that’s going into the Chattahoochee River directly downstream of the national recreation area,” Ulseth said. “This is posing a serious health threat and the levels we are seeing are very alarming.”

Watershed Management said the plan remains online and operational and that backup systems are running.