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Tube, canoe rental companies take hit after wastewater spill in Cannon River

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Ames Mill
Ames Millsits on the banks of the Cannon River in downtown Northfield, Minn., in this file photo from July 2013.
Molly Bloom | MPR file 2013

Updated: 6 p.m. | Posted: 12:01 p.m.

Some companies along the Cannon River have had fewer takers than usual this Fourth of July, saying business is down after authorities estimate a million gallons of wastewater spilled into the river on Tuesday. 

Normally, this is one of the busiest weeks of the summer for companies that offer tubing and canoeing trips on the Cannon River downstream of Northfield.

But early Tuesday morning, a broken pipe at the city's treatment plant caused flooding and forced staff to release treated and untreated wastewater. The public was advised to avoid direct contact with the river.

Ross Nelson, who owns Welch Mill Canoeing and Tubing downstream of the spill, said some customers have canceled their reservations. But Nelson noted that spill was a small percentage of the total water flowing in the river.

Nelson said Welch Mill will still rent to people who want a tube or canoe, after notifying them about the water advisory. 

"We're warning everybody about this advisory warning that they gave, letting people make their own decisions," he said.

The Cannon River flows through Lake Byllesby, and Dakota County temporarily closed Lake Byllesby Regional Park's beach. The park's campground and other amenities remain open.

Northfield city officials reiterated their earlier warning late Wednesday, advising the public to avoid direct contact with the river downstream from Northfield until 6 a.m. Friday.

In a news release, city officials said water samples taken Tuesday confirmed elevated levels of bacteria that could make people sick. They are doing additional testing and expect to issue another advisory on Thursday.