CHARLOTTE, NC (WJZY) - Officials in North Carolina say they have authorized a plan to discharge water from The U.S. National Whitewater Center that tested positive for a brain-eating amoeba responsible for the death of an Ohio teen into the Catawba River.
The pre-discharge treatment plan requires the water to be chlorinated at a level more than ten times then needed to reduce Naegleria fowleri by 99.99 percent.
The water will be dechlorinated under a process approved by state environmental engineers before it is discharged, officials said.
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation (CRF) believes that the final plan, if monitored and executed appropriately, is a good and reasonable solution to treat and discharge water containing the amoeba N. fowleri.
Catawba Riverkeeper USNWC statement
In a news conference Wednesday morning, Dr. Marcus Plescia, director of the Mecklenburg County Health Department stressed that only the water was being drained. He said the sediment in the pool, which is where Naeglaria fowleri exist, will not be dumped into the river.
Dr. Pleascia went on to say that this is "step one of the process." Once the water is drained and the pools cleans, step two will call upon the Whitewater Center and health officials to put the proper systems in place. Step three will be monitoring and regulating.
The treatment and discharged will be supervised, including testing of the water at regular intervals during the treatment process and monitoring of the water at and downstream from the discharge points, officials said.
“We are confident that the extensive monitoring requirements in the discharge plan will protect water quality in the Catawba River,” said Tom Reeder, assistant secretary of the state environmental department. “It’s important to remember that the amoeba is naturally occurring in lakes and rivers, but after review by many stakeholders we believe this plan offers the best possible protections for public health and the environment.”
In June, waters at the Whitewater Center tested positive for the brain-eating amoeba following the death of 18-year-old Lauren Elisabeth Seitz. Seitz passed away due to Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, after visiting the White Water Center with a church group.
Specialists from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, working with local health officials, determined the systems used to treat and filter whitewater activities at the center were unable to properly filter the water to prevent the amoeba.
Dr. Jennifer Cope, a representative from the CDC, called the facility's chlorination and UV filtration systems were "inadequate."
Whitewater activities at the U.S. National Whitewater Center have been suspended since June.