The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) yesterday announced the lifting of a 23-year-old water contact advisory for the West Prong Little Pigeon River in Sevier

“Water restoration projects take time and perseverance, and this is a perfect case study,” said Dr. Shari Meghreblian, Deputy Commissioner for TDEC’s Bureau of Environment. “For more than two decades, local, state and federal authorities have worked together to improve the quality of water in the West Prong. While the work isn’t finished, lifting the water contact advisory today is a milestone achievement and testament to the hard work of so many people over the years.”

Significant upgrades in wastewater treatment, sewage collection system improvements, and identification and rehabilitation of failing septic tanks are among the contributors to the water quality improvement. Originally issued in 1993 due to elevated fecal coliform bacteria on the lower Middle Prong Little Pigeon, West Prong and multiple tributaries, the issuance of the advisory was the beginning of a cooperative effort between TDEC, the National Park Service, Sevier County, and the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville to monitor water quality and identify and control pathogen sources.

The advisory being lifted is from the mouth of the West Prong in Sevierville upstream to mile 17.3 at the confluence of Roaring Creek downstream of Gatlinburg. A portion of the river is within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a section between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge known as “the Spur.”

“Bacteria concentrations have improved to the point that the public advisory is no longer considered necessary,” said TDEC Division of Water Resources Director Tisha Calabrese-Benton. “We are very proud of the improvements to the West Prong but it still has water quality issues that will keep it on the state’s list of impaired streams. We will continue to work with stakeholders over the long-term to ensure this waterway stays on a healthy path.”

In 2014, an advisory on the lower Middle Prong Pigeon River was lifted after improvements in wastewater treatment at the Sevierville sewage treatment plant. An advisory on several tributaries was also lifted after septic tank issues were resolved. An existing advisory on two additional tributaries, Dudley Creek and Beech Branch, will remain in place.