Mecklenburg County officials are moving forward with a plan that would take treated water from the U.S. National Whitewater Center blamed in the death of a teenager and drain it into the Catawba River.
Deputy County Manager Chris Peek sent an email to county commissioners Friday saying that state and local authorities are considering a plan in which authorities would treat water that contains a potentially deadly parasite with chlorine. Then they would remove the chlorine once the parasite is inactivated and dump the water into the Catawba River.
Some residents have expressed reservations about pouring the water in local waterways because the amoeba can cause deadly infections. Infections are extremely rare but almost always fatal.
Peek said the discharge will be monitored to limit any health or environmental risks posed by the water going into the river.
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Sam Perkins of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, an environmental group, said he is comfortable with the plan. The chlorination is based on sound research from Arizona on how to kill the amoeba, Perkins said.
“It will be sufficient,” said Perkins, who has been briefed on the details. “The chlorine treatment will kill 99.99 percent of the amoeba.”
The Whitewater Center closed to whitewater rafting on June 24, five days after Lauren Seitz, 18, of Ohio died of an infection caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.
Authorities believe Seitz contracted the waterborne illness at the Whitewater Center when she fell out of a raft at the center and water went up her nose.
The Whitewater Center has drained water from the upper channels used for rafting and kayaking. All of the water now sits in a lower pond while authorities figure out what to do.
According to Peek’s email, Health Department Medical Director Dr. Stephen Keener has notified authorities that: “when the water is discharged it will go to the surface of the ground through a vegetative cover. It will travel approximately the length of two football fields prior to reaching Long Creek. The water quality will be monitored during the discharge and will not impact the water quality of the Catawba River.”
Clasen-Kelly: 704 358-5027