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Whitewater Center channels reopen Wednesday as rafts hit the water

Whitewater Center reopens channels

People enter the Whitewater Center Wednesday morning. The center is opening channels today for the first time since June 23rd following a visitors death.
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People enter the Whitewater Center Wednesday morning. The center is opening channels today for the first time since June 23rd following a visitors death.

Whitewater channels at the U.S. National Whitewater Center reopened Wednesday after being closed since June 23 following a visitor’s death. Group rafts hit the water shortly after 10 Wednesday morning.

Mecklenburg County health officials on Monday outlined a plan to monitor water at the center, which installed a new chlorination system to kill microbes. The county will monitor the center weekly through August but reduce visits in September and for the rest of the year.

Channels at the center were drained after the water tested positive in June for an amoeba that causes extremely rare but fatal infections. The center drained water from its channels, then refilled them after they were cleaned.

The center posted a water quality plan on its website Tuesday.

“The USNWC water quality management plan consists of adaptations of technologies and procedures from related (though substantially different) systems such as pools, municipal water systems, water parks, and aquariums in order to develop an effective and practical water quality management program that fits the unique needs of a man-made whitewater river,” it said.

The center now has three overlapping systems to kill or disable disease-carrying pathogens: a chlorine injection system; an ozone oxidation process; and ultraviolet light. UV light, supplemented by chlorine, had been its primary disinfection system before closing.

County officials have said the center will vacuum up sediment in the water that can harbor the amoeba that killed an Ohio teen in June.

“Please understand that despite all of the efforts to treat the water at the USNWC, eliminating 100 percent of the specific risk of any organisms existing in the whitewater system is never guaranteed,” the center’s statement said. “Our goal, like any other water system, pool, or aquarium is to simply reduce the chances of contracting waterborne illness.”

The center’s water quality is not regulated, but local officials are assessing whether it should be.

Mecklenburg County commissioners discussed potential regulation of the privately run facility last week but made no decisions. Dr. Marcus Plescia, the county health director, said Monday that observations of the center’s operations over the next few weeks will indicate what rules, if any, are needed.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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