EDEN, N.C. -- Since February, dozens of miles of the Dan River have been polluted with coal ash from the Duke Energy plant in Eden.
Efforts are underway to clean up as much as 39,000 tons of ash that have traveled some 70 miles down stream and tarnished the area's image.
"A lot of people look from the outside and think we have a tainted river," Mayor Wayne Tuggle said.
That's hurting the area's vital tourism industry.
"There's been so much negative coverage on the Dan River that people don't understand that the Dan River is still open and the vast majority of it is perfectly available for people to come and enjoy and have a good time," Wit Tuttell, executive director for the North Carolina Division of Tourism said.
So with the Memorial Day weekend around the corner, local and state officials are making a major push to show that tourists can still go tubing, kayaking and canoeing.
Local businesses are already taking a hit to their bottom line, so they're running all kinds of promotions and discounts as an incentive to get folks back on the water.
"So far the numbers are fewer this year," Glenn Bozorth, owner of Dan River Adventures said. "We do expect some kind of negative impact, but hopefully it won't be much because there's really nothing for anybody to fear."
And to show that there's nothing to fear, Dan River Adventures and Three Rivers Outfitters offered free rentals on Tuesday.
"The vast majority of the area that visitors would go to participate in any activities are upstream from the spill, so there's no way that coal ash can impact them," Tuttell said.
And local river companies are making sure that none of their activities go near the affected areas downstream.