Health and environmental safety officials are asking lake users to be mindful of increased currents and debris floating on or under the surface of Lake Norman in the aftermath of almost daily showers during the past month.No major issues have been reported that could cause problems with water quality in North Carolina’s largest manmade lake – such as overflowing septic-tank systems or excessive silt runoff – but officials are keeping a close watch on the lake due to the unusually heavy rain levels.“We’ve gotten no reports of things like (excessive runoff or sewage problems),” Duke Energy spokeswoman Lisa Hoffmann said, “but we’re asking people to be particularly safe because of the high water.”According to Hoffmann, rain gauges at the McGuire Nuclear Station on the south end of Lake Norman have recorded 11.5 inches of rain in a 30-day span between June 9 and July 9.That, along with equally heavy rainfall over the western half of North Carolina, has left all the lakes along the Catawba-Wateree River basin near – and in some cases, above – full-pond levels.Lake Norman’s water level was 99.1 feet as of July 9, 1.1 feet above normal for this time of year and less than a foot below the lake’s full-pond level of 100 feet.Three others lakes in the Catawba River chain – Lake James (101.4 feet), Lookout Shoals Lake (102.1) and Mountain Island Lake (102.4) – are above full pond.“Anytime you get extended periods of rainfall like we’ve seen recently, generally you’re going to have more problems with septic systems, whether it’s around the lake or anywhere else in the county,” said David Hinson, division manager of the Iredell County Public Health Department’s environmental health division.“While we haven’t gotten any reports of problems … we certainly investigate complaints, and we try to correct problems as quickly as we can.”Officials also are watching for excessive runoff from lakeside construction sites and from streams that feed Lake Norman. Not only can the runoff mark significant erosion problems, it can lead to an even more serious problem: increased bacteria levels in the lake water.“Generally, you don’t want to go swimming in the lake 48 hours after the ‘first flush’ – that first big rain that usually flushes most of the bad stuff into the lake,” said Rick Gaskins, executive director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, an environmental advocacy group. “You test after a big rain, you’re usually going to see high bacteria levels.“I’ve heard about problems like that on Mountain Island Lake from a bunch of mud coming down McDowell Creek (in Huntersville) … but I haven’t heard of any reports of problems on Lake Norman.”The excessive water levels have prompted the Lake Norman Marine Commission to issue a second warning to boaters about debris, increased currents and even boat wakes, which can damage docks, seawalls and moored boats.“The LNMC also reminds all boaters that they are responsible for the wake created by their vessel and the damage that the wake may cause,” Marine Commission Executive Director Ron Shoultz said in a news release about the warning. “Boaters should take extra precaution with regard to boat wakes during this period of high water.”
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013
Rains pose threat of lake hazards
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