Permit Issued To Whitewater Center, Water Activities Are Now Open

UPDATE: Mecklenburg County health inspectors just issued a permit to the US National Whitewater Center that will allow them to start their water activities.

This is the first permit issued to them since a woman died from a brain eating amoeba last year.

Check out our previous stories on the U.S. National Whitewater Center here.

Mecklenburg County released the following:

Mecklenburg County has completed its inspection of the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) and has issued an Operation Permit allowing the facility to reopen its recreational rafting channels.

The rafting channels have been closed since last summer.

After the channels were drained, cleaned and refilled, County staff from Environmental Health monitored and tested the water on a regular basis to ensure chlorine levels remained stable.

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners added additional testing, inspections, and a requirement that the USNWC obtain an annual County operating permit to ensure water quality.

PREVIOUS STORY:

CHARLOTTE, NC — Saturday the U.S. National Whitewater center was scheduled to open the rafting rapids, but the Mecklenburg County Health Department said Friday that won’t happen.

The county isn’t ready to issue the center a permit to operate yet and has no timeline on when that will happen.

The center started running some water through the channel Friday afternoon, but the health department says crews are still installing the filtration system.

The U.S.National Whitewater Center sent a statement out Friday saying, “The U.S.National Whitewater Center is working closely with Mecklenburg County officials through the newly established permitting and inspection process. We have filed all the necessary paperwork with Mecklenburg County, and at this time, are awaiting their next steps as they work diligently through this new process. Whitewater activities will resume as soon as we have officially received the permit.”

This will be the first time that the health department has forced the Whitewater Center to have a permit since a brain-eating amoeba killed 18-year-old Lauren Seitz, an Ohio woman rafting in the center.

“It was a very freak accident, and it was a horrible thing, but I feel like the Whitewater Center has it all under control,” said one visitor, Lauren Besselman.

Her son is a rapid guide there. “And I trust it 100 percent,” said Besselman.

The County Manager for Environmental Health, Lisa Corbitt, says workers must finish installing the new ozone filtration system and get the water running before she can test the water and issue an operational permit.

“We are being very intentional in the process. It is the first time that we’ve permitted this facility, and we want to make sure that everything is correct,” said Corbitt.

The whitewater center used to self-regulate.

After Seitz died, county commissioners took that power away and put the health department in control.

That’s the only time CEO Jeff Wise wise spoke publicly, on camera since the tragedy.

“I dont believe the filtration system was inadequate,” Wise told reporters in Oct. 2016.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously said the filtration system of chlorine and UV light was inadequate to kill the amoeba, combined with other elements like the algae and debris.

“The chlorine reacts with all of that debris and is automatically consumed,” said Dr. Jennifer Cope with the CDC.

Now, the whitewater center must follow permitting rules issued by the county.

“They need to be keeping, weekly records they need to be keeping, and we will be looking at all of that,” said Corbitt.

The health department plans to make at least four surprise inspection visits this year.

Those who have family going back in the water are not worried.

“They know all the precautions,” said Besselman. “He’s been trained very well, and as a mom, I’m not concerned.”