Georgetown/Scott County Tourism and Parks & Recreation officials decided Tuesday night to cancel the June 8 Elkhorn Creek Float Fest after a sewage spill last Saturday. Boats and fishermen were granted access to Elkhorn Creek from Oser Landing, Cardome and Great Crossing Tuesday afternoon.

“Both Georgetown/Scott County Tourism and Parks & Recreation are saddened to cancel the Elkhorn Creek Float Fest but confident access to the creek will open soon,” said Lori Saunders, executive director at Georgetown/Scott County Tourism. “Elkhorn Creek remains a vital tourism and recreation component for Scott County, and our emergency management team is doing everything they can to make it safe again for visitors and locals.”

Georgetown/Scott County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Michael Hennigan Saunders talked Tuesday and the decision to cancel and reschedule the Float Fest was to give everything time to settle down, Henngian said.

“It was not the safety issue but the perception,” he said. “There had been some calls that people didn’t want to get into the creek, so it made sense to reschedule.”

The Georgetown/Scott County Tourism office said they are planning to reschedule a floating and/or paddle event later this summer or in the fall after coordinating schedules with all the involved parties.

Those who had already registered for the June 8 event will receive refunds. A little more than 180 had already registered, and officials were expecting about 500-600 total by June 8.

The Georgetown/Scott County EMA banned all access to water after a large sewage spill at the end of Dover Drive Saturday. Hennigan said Tuesday afternoon that access was reopened for boats and fishing, but he would not advise swimming in the water just yet.

The agency will continue to conduct testing until bacteria levels are near normal readings, he said. The last tests for bacteria parts per 100 milliliters was at 3,900 and the number for unsafe bacteria is 4,000.

“Our normal readings according to the Division of Water is usually at 2,400. When it gets to 3,000, I will feel good about letting people back in the water,” Hennigan said.

“For now, boating and fishing would be OK. I wouldn’t get in the water and stay for 12 hours. That may be pushing your luck.”

Wednesday morning, he said the samples tested were much better, even below what normal readings are. But he said he wanted to give it one more day to check the numbers.

 Saturday’s brief heavy rain hurt instead of helped the situation, Henngian said.

“We started getting readings of other things like fertilizer and livestock manure,” Hennigan said. “It shook up the chemical contaminants and skewed the lab numbers. We will test every day until I’m comfortable with the level.”

Another Elkhorn Creek event, the Elkhorn Creek Trash Bash, will go on as scheduled according to Bob Larkin with Bluegrass Wildwater Association and organizer of the event.

“I toured the site the morning after the spill and there was no smell, no film on the water and no wildlife issues,” he said. “I’ve been speaking with Michael Hennigan and he didn’t expect any issues in the area of the Trash Bash. We are monitoring water quality and if something unexpected happens, we’ll postpone it.”

The Trash Bash is in its second year, and has increased in numbers of participants. Participants report to Elkhorn Acres at 4121 Peaks Mill Road in Frankfort and are divided into teams and assigned sections of South Fork Elkhorn Creek and go into Switzer on the North Fork. All combined, teams will cover about 24 miles of the creek.

Those teams go out in canoes or kayaks and pick trash out of the creek.

“If we happen to get some rain and the flow of the creek is good, we may actually get to cover closer to 30 miles,” he said. “Eventually, I would like to start in Georgetown and cover about 60 miles.”

People can still register, Larkin said, and they offer camping along the creek Saturday night and dinner to thank volunteers, and a special kids’ paddle race in memory of a child of one of their club members on Sunday.

“Experienced boaters will do the whitewater section, while less experienced do the flat water section,” he said. “We have gear provided for about 40 volunteers, including canoes and kayaks. People can still register, but it is not required.”

For more details on the Trash Bash, visit www.kwalliance.org.

Steve McClain can be reached at smcclain@news-graphic.com.

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