On Friday, September 16, a levee breach at the City of Brookhaven’s sewage plant released approximately six million gallons of storm water-diluted sewage to the East Branch of the Bogue Chitto River. Based on information provided by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the Louisiana Department of Health and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality are issuing a water contact advisory for swimming and fishing in the Bogue Chitto River for its entire length in Louisiana. The advisory is effective immediately.
While the release is under control and no additional flow is expected to reach the river, scientists with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality estimate the already contaminated river water will likely reach Louisiana by Sunday. This raw sewage waste may temporarily increase contaminate levels (fecal coliform readings) in the river to levels unsafe for swimming and fishing.
Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana State Health Officer, explained there are always health risks inherent to swimming in natural waterways, but this sewage release will add contaminants that can result in elevated levels of unhealthy bacteria. 
“Because of this release of raw sewage into the river, we are advising citizens that contact with the water could present a health risk,” Guidry said. "Although all waterways will have some level of contamination, this sewage release has the possibility of elevating the levels of bacteria. People should take precautions to lessen their chance of getting sick from exposure to the water.”
Microorganisms can enter the body through the mouth, nose, eyes and ears, as well as through cuts and wounds. Therefore, swallowing the water or immersing one’s head increases the risk of illness. 
Illnesses associated with poor water quality include diarrhea, sore throats, stomach cramps or vomiting. Children, the elderly or people with a weakened immune system are at greater risk of getting sick when swimming in waters that harbor natural and man-made contaminants.
The Department of Health offers these additional guidelines that should always be observed:
  • Do not swim near a drainage pipe or in a ditch, or near runoff or littered areas.
  • Do not swim in areas with warnings against swimming.
  • Avoid swimming after heavy rains.
  • Avoid ingesting or swallowing the water.
  • Minimize immersing your head when swimming.
  • Avoid swimming with an open cut or wound.
  • Shower after exposure to the water.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is developing a water monitoring plan. When results are in, DEQ will advise the Department of Health.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.ldh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.