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EDEN, N.C. -- The North Carolina Division of Tourism launched its 2014 summer tourism season Tuesday at the Dan River -- the site of the massive Duke Energy coal ash spill in February.

NC Division of Tourism executive director Wit Tuttell and Dan River Basin Association program manager Jenny Edwards explained there are 60 miles of the river that are unaffected by the spill. This portion, which they say is a popular stretch for recreational activities, is upstream from where the spill occurred. Tuttell said water quality in this part was therefore not affected by the spill, though frequent testing will continue to occur throughout the summer.

Robin Yount with Rockingham County Tourism and Cindy Adams with the City of Eden Tourism said if tourists are deterred from going to the Dan River due to misconceptions about the spill, the impact will be very costly to the county and city economies.

Tuttell said the state would suffer, as well, because a significant portion of the $20.2 billion tourism industry in North Carolina is comprised of the tourism activities surrounding the Dan River.

For more information on recreational activities -- including kayaking, canoeing, tubing, river tours and camping-- on the Dan, Mayo, Smith and Haw Rivers, visit the North Carolina North Star website.

Due to the multi-purpose nature of the Dan River, which has three-strengths of water currents, Swift Water Rescue team member Robert Cardwell stressed the importance of reviewing river safety. He said the number one rule is to have properly-fitted life jackets for all passengers on board a water craft. He also reminded river-goers to check the weather forecast and river conditions for the day on which they plan to use the river. Lastly, he recommended disclosing travel plan specifics (time, place, access point, etc) prior to going on the trip.

The North Carolina Division of Tourism, in conjunction with both Rockingham County and Eden tourism departments and mayor of Eden, will officially launch tourism season Tuesday by holding a celebratory ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Leaksville Landing access point on the Dan River.

The 2014 North Carolina tourism season launched Tuesday at the Dan River-- the source of the massive coal ash spill in Feb. WFMY News 2

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