Geese poop may be causing abnormally high bacteria in Lake Cornelius, officials say

Officials believe they have a suspect for what’s causing high bacteria levels in Lake Cornelius that led to a no swimming advisory: goose poop.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services announced last Thursday that staff found bacteria “elevated above acceptable levels for human contact” in the cove between Davidson Street in Cornelius and Catawba Avenue in Davidson. At the time, the source and type of bacteria were unknown.

Rusty Rozzelle, water quality program manager for the agency, said that they’re still investigating, but they’re “pretty confident” geese waste caused the abnormally high bacteria levels because of the large number living in the cove.

Brandon Jones of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, said that E. coli is the best indicator of whether or not water is safe.

“Bacteria that live in the guts of geese can live in water after they’ve been excreted for several days, especially when it’s warm outside,” Jones said, adding that E. coli can cause infections associated with water like swimmer’s ear and skin rashes.

Temperatures consistently peaking in the high 90s this week create the perfect environment in which this bacteria thrive.

Rozzelle said investigators are checking the sewer and septic systems to rule out leaks as a source. However, he said that if geese are the source, “there’s not much to do about it.”

“There are ways that you can exclude geese from areas, but usually they just come back,” Rozzelle said.

He added that they hope to confirm the source of the bacteria levels by Wednesday. Until then, officials and other water quality experts urge swimmers to avoid the cove.

“Even though we think of geese poop as natural, we can still be affected by the bacteria caused by it,” Jones said. “People should take the advisory seriously.”