COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The July 4th weekend would normally be a perfect time to enjoy the cool water of the Saluda River, but this year there's hesitation for many.
That's because part of the lower Saluda remains under a swim advisory due to bacterial contamination.
Part of the Saluda River, upstream from the Riverbanks Zoo, had been a concern after some tests showed high levels of E. coli last month. That situation developed from testing done by the zoo, but has since been disputed to some extent, after additional tests evaluated by DHEC.
The state agency says while there is an ongoing problem with bacterial contaminants up around Saluda Shoals Park, where a no-swim advisory remains in effect, most water samples around the zoo have found levels of contaminants under the standard of concern. Furthermore, DHEC says, there is no way to conclusively link the two situations.
Near Saluda Shoals, it has been determined elevated levels of bacteria are the result of a breakdown in processing discharges from the Carolina Water Services facility at Friarsgate. The company, which has been often criticized as well as sued in federal court, has promised to make short and long term repairs.
Meanwhile, all of this talk about bad water and bacteria has had an impact on kayakers, tubers and others who seem to be staying clear of this river for now.
"It's a great way to cool off. It's a beautiful natural resource. It's one of the greater fisheries in the southeast and people can't use it for that right now. Or they're tentative," said Hartley Barber of Get Your Gear On.
Again, no swim advisory has been issued for the river around the zoo. But DHEC has given no indication of when the advisory will be lifted further upstream.