The third annual Sipsey Fork River Race that was scheduled for next Saturday has been canceled because the water is not safe for human recreation, according to Martha Salomaa of the Sipsey Heritage Commission.
SIPSEY — The third annual Sipsey Fork River Race that was scheduled for next Saturday has been canceled because the water is not safe for human recreation, according to Martha Salomaa of the Sipsey Heritage Commission.
The river became contaminated when River Valley Ingredients (Tyson Farms Inc.) released partially treated effluent (liquid waste/sewage) into the Dave Young Creek, which flows to the Mulberry Fork.
The Sipsey Heritage Commission had the water tested by Sutherland Environmental Inc. on Thursday, and the tests showed three different readings that were high enough to make the water unsafe for human recreation. E. Coli, Total Coliform, and Fecal Coliform were all at elevated levels. “Those three different bacteria levels were so high that it would have been reckless for us to race,” Salomaa said.
The water that was tested was taken from an area of the river where kayakers and boaters would get in the water to pull their craft from the river after the race, according to Salomaa.
This is a huge blow to Sispey Heritage Commission and everyone involved, according to Salomaa. “But we simply cannot put human life at risk,” she said.
The cancelation is an economic blow to the area because race planners expected 70-plus entrants for this year’s race.
“We’ve just had a great response this year, and I think it would have been our best year ever,” Salomaa said. “In years past, a lot of people spent money at Riverside Fly Shop, T&R Grocery, and Frosty.”
Planners have talked about rescheduling the race for the fall, but Salomaa really wants to ensure that Tyson cleans up its act before scheduling another race. “I believe it will get better, but we’re going to have to make that happen,” she said.
Canceling the event this year was heartbreaking for Salomaa and others involved with the race.
“We feel like we’ve had a really good thing going that shines a positive light on our community,” she said.
On June 22, race planners are going to set up at the forks of the river (behind T&R Grocery), and any racer that ordered a T-shirt can pick it up on that day.
They will also staff an information booth and pass out a contact sheet for people who want to file complains with elected officials, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, or the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We want everyone who’s been affected by this to join us in pushing Tyson to do the right thing,” Salomaa said. “This is our community, and this is our river. We have to band together to stop Tyson from treating our river like it’s a sewer. We have to get into their pockets.”