GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) - Two workers were missing Tuesday after
a wastewater treatment plant in a Smoky Mountains tourist town
failed and spilled millions of gallons of sewage.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said a holding tank at
the Gatlinburg plant gave way Tuesday morning, sending possibly
millions of gallons of sewage into the Little Pigeon River.
Between 1.5 and 3.2 million gallons of sewage spilled, TEMA
spokesman Jeremy Heidt said.
Some of the spill entered the small river that flows from
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Both cities are top destinations for
tourists visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Eric Brakins, assistant city manager for the city of Pigeon
Forge, told The Associated Press that his city is helping to look
for the two workers.
The cause of the failure hasn't yet been determined, state
officials said. The Mountain Press newspaper in Sevierville
reported there was a mudslide or rock slide in the area after heavy
rains. The paper reported the breach was accompanied by what
sounded like an explosion and that water began rushing out.
"There was a catastrophic failure of a holding tank at the
plant," said Bob Miller, a spokesman for the Great Smoky Mountains
The National Park Service has personnel on the scene because the
sewage flowed into the river, which is on park land and runs
between the lanes of U.S. 441, known as The Spur.
"The sewage flowed under (the road) and straight into the
Little Pigeon," Miller said.
Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department
of Environment and Conservation, said officials were on the way
there from Knoxville, about 35 miles northwest of the accident
People are being warned not to come in contact with the river
until more is known about the accident, she said.
"Obviously, we are not going to want people to have contact
with the water until we know what's going on, until we can sample
and determine what cleanup is needed," Calabrese-Benton said.
The treatment plant is located behind the visitor center in
Gatlinburg. The river flows north from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge.
Brakins said Pigeon Forge draws its municipal water supply from
Douglas Lake and the French Broad River and the supply there is not
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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