Savannah River swimming ban lifted

Savannah River swimming ban lifted

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Augusta officials say it is safe to swim in the Savannah River again.

Tests of the oily substance found in the river over the weekend show that the river is safe and there is no risk to swimmers, said Dee Griffin, public information officer for the Augusta Fire Department.

The substance spotted in the river has cleared up, but officials said they're still unsure of its origin.

Due to the large amount of rain over the weekend, the oily discharge was visible on the river. Swimmers training for a triathlon noticed the substance Sunday afternoon.

"What looks like happened is the large rains that came through washed out one of those storm drains, and either somebody had dumped something into it, or stuff had accumulated into it and then it was pushed out into the river," Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said.

William Caskey swims in the river two to three times a week, and was in the water Sunday when the advisory was sent out.

"I didn't really notice anything unusual in the river at that point or at any point during my swim. I could tell that we had some heavy rains,"he said. "You always see the water's a little more cloudy, but I didn't notice any petroleum or oil or any kind of obnoxious smell of any sort."

Chad Kimbrell is the president for Tri-Augusta, and said with the Ironman 70.3 race less than two weeks away he's just hoping the river is cleaned up in time.

"This is the world's largest 70.3 event, it could be very devastating for the community and all the racers that have planned for this race," Kimbrell said.  

Luckily, the oil-like substance has mostly disappeared thanks to some help from Mother Nature.

"The river is actually very good at cleaning itself, and the solution to pollution is dilution," Bonitatibus said, "so especially being that we've got more rain coming, this stuff will continue to flush downstream."

Kimbrell and Caskey both said they would have no problem diving back in the river.

"I won't have a problem doing it. I'm sure you'll see people," Kimbrell said. "As long as the ban's lifted I'm sure you'll see a group out tomorrow evening swimming."

The riverkeeper says they plan to keep the no-swim advisory in place until Tuesday to be sure the water is safe to enjoy and swim in again.

We will continue to update you here on WFXG, and if you would like to follow the Savannah Riverkeeper for more information, you can like their Facebook page or head to their website.

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