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For the first time in more than 20 years, the state is lifting its warning for parts of a river near a popular tourism destination.

The state has warned locals not to fish or swim in the Little Pigeon River in Sevier County since 1993. It was around that time when the state found high levels of fecal bacteria in the water.

According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, overflowing sewage treatment plants, failing septic tanks and the improper disposal of household waste-water all may have contributed to contaminating the river.

However, now, part of that ban has been lifted.

TDEC recently declared the portion of the Little Pigeon River, north of downtown Sevierville, as clean.

Gnatty Branch, Baskins Creek, King Branch, Roaring Fork and Holy Branch have also been identified as clean tributaries too.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said local leaders have been eager to clean up the Little Pigeon River for some time. He said the county, Sevierville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have all done their part to make things on that waterway better.

TDEC said multiple sewage treatment plants are being built or upgraded, water lines are being rehabbed and septic tanks and pipes continue to be inspected.

Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster said work is ongoing.

"We are constantly monitoring our streams and trying to check for leakages," she said. But, not all of the river is clean.

TDEC's remaining water contact advisories on the West Prong Little Pigeon River, plus Dudley Creek and Beech Creek all remain in place. The state said additional pathogen testing will be performed on those waterways in the summer.

In the meantime, local leaders plan to celebrate the river news April 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the Sevier County Fairgrounds.

They will be joined by state and National Parks Service officials who also helped clean up the river.

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