‘No Swimming’ advisory issued for Ramsey Creek Beach on Lake Norman

Hundreds of people flocked to the new beach on Lake Norman in Ramsey Creek Park on opening day May 28.
Hundreds of people flocked to the new beach on Lake Norman in Ramsey Creek Park on opening day May 28. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

A “No Swimming” advisory was issued Friday for Ramsey Creek Beach on Lake Norman after elevated fecal coliform levels were found.

These abnormal levels indicate that there may be waste in the water with other bacteria that could cause illness, according to Rusty Rozelle, a spokesperson for Mecklenburg County’s Storm Water Services. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation has decided to keep the beach closed until samples show it is safe for the public.

Chris Matthews from Park and Recreation said that on Monday, sampling results showed the water to have seven of the colonies per 100 mL of water. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services issued the advisory after receiving sampling from Wednesday, when the count dramatically jumped up to 450 col/100mL.

This is well over the acceptable tolerance level of 200 col/100mL.

Rozelle said over the last five years, they’ve never gotten a count over 100col/100mL. He said count is usually anywhere from five to 20 col/100mL. “This is something that doesn’t occur very often,” he said.

Rozelle said he suspects the most likely cause of the abnormal levels is rain, though it is difficult to isolate a specific source. “You have bacteria in soil,” he said. “When it rains and the soil is washed into the water body, that bacteria can be released into the water.”

He also emphasized that the high count of fecal coliform levels is not what causes sickness, but instead is an indicator of other potentially harmful bacteria. “We don’t expect anyone to have any illness or sickness,” he said.

He said more samples were taken Friday and the investigation into the cause of the high levels is ongoing. They hope to have more results back by noon Saturday, he said.

Rozelle also said the advisory only applies to Ramsey Creek Beach and that the rest of the lake is fine. Ramsey Creek Park and its boat ramps will remain open.

The beach opened on May 28 as Mecklenburg County’s first swimming beach at a county-run park since the late 1970s.

View the Ramsey Creek Beach water sampling results on the Ramsey Creek Park web page at parkandrec.com.