CHARLOTTE, NC (WJZY) - The U.S. National Whitewater Center has released specific actions going forward regarding whitewater activity after a brain-eating amoeba was discovered at the center.
Center officials made the decision to suspend rafting and whitewater kayaking operations after water samples tested positive for the presence of Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba responsible for the death of an Ohio teen.
USNWC officials plan on taking the following actions:
- Drain the existing water in the system in order to dry the channels completely.
- Clean all concrete and rock surfaces within the whitewater channels.
- Test both the wells and the City of Charlotte water sources for the presence of Naegleria fowleri prior to refilling.
- Work with the CDC, local and state public health officials, and other professionals to determine the best means possible to implement additional water quality measures in an effort to minimize risks related to Naegleria fowleri.
“We are working to address a number of questions as we determine what needs to be done before we are to operate the whitewater again,” USNWC officials released in a statement Tuesday. “Our goal is to have the above steps accomplished in a timely manner while at all times taking every measure to be prudent and thorough. The objective is to develop a water quality program that improves our chances of reducing the risk of exposure to Naegleria fowleri and provide better overall water quality.”
On Tuesday, the North Carolina House voted 109-1 to pass an amendment that would allow officials to better regulate water recreation attractions, including the USNWC.
The whitewater system at the USNWC has been treated as a natural system. Unlike a swimming pool in practical or regulatory terms, anyone rafting or kayaking does so in natural bodies of water. The USNWC is no different, with some exceptions, according to officials.
Right now the whitewater system is self-contained, meaning it does not routinely interact or connect with any other natural rivers or creeks. The center gets its water through the Charlotte Water Department, two wells located on our property and rain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no known means of controlling the levels of the Naegleria fowleri in natural environments.
Naegleria fowleri can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and hot springs in the United States, particularly in southern-tier states, but has recently caused infections as far north as Minnesota. Hundreds of millions of visits to swimming venues occur each year in the U.S. that results in 0-8 infections per year.
There have been 37 reported infections in the U.S. in the 10 years from 2006 to 2015, despite hundreds of millions of recreational water exposures each year, according to the CDC. By comparison, in the ten years from 2001 to 2010, there were more than 34,000 drowning deaths in the United States.