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Energy & Environment

County Adopts Water-Quality Rules For Whitewater Center

A worker at the U.S. National Whitewater Center releases chlorine into the basin below the rafting channel in July.
Mecklenburg County
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A worker at the U.S. National Whitewater Center releases chlorine into the basin below the rafting channel in July.

Mecklenburg County commissioners Tuesday night unanimously approved water-quality regulations for the U.S. National Whitewater Center. That follows an Ohio teenager's death this summer from a rare brain infection she contracted after rafting at the center. 

The death of Lauren Seitz in June has been linked to an ameba found in the center’s whitewater channel. After her death, the center drained and cleaned the channel. And it installed a new chlorinating system.

The ameba is common in warm lakes and rivers, but chlorine at high enough levels can kill it.  

However no state or local regulations governed the center – one of only a few facilities of its kind in the country.

The new rules require a $500 annual operating permit from the county. To maintain that, the center must test water twice daily and meet minimum chlorine levels.

“There will be daily monitoring by the facility of the chlorine levels, and also there will be daily monitoring of water quality and organic accumulation to make sure there's not a lot of buildup of sediment,” county health director Marcus Plescia told commissioners.   

County inspectors will visit four times a year, to inspect the facility and check testing records. The center can be fined up to $500 and shut down if it doesn’t meet county standards.

Commissioners also heard from Whitewater Center CEO Jeff Wise, who has not appeared at a commission meeting since the incident. Some commissioners were critical of that, saying he should have been more visible at county meetings and press conferences.

Wise said the center's original water quality system was sound.  

“We, working with the county, came up with a number of different approaches,” Wise said. “And we think at the time we created our original approach that we had a very, very solid approach with it.”

But that changed with the teen’s death. “With the experiences that we encountered this past summer, back in June, we did discover there were some additional challenges that we needed to address,” he said.

Wise says the center supports the new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

RELATED LINKS

See the county’s new Whitewater Center regulation on the county commission website