CDC: Whitewater Filter System Inadequate

Water Positive for Brain Eating Amoeba

CHARLOTTE, NC — The Mecklenburg County Health Department is still working to find out what the U.S. National Whitewater Center can do to prevent another brain eating amoeba death.

There are five more days left until doctors say enough time has passed to ensure no one else contracted the amoeba.

18-year-old Lauren Seitz died Sunday after contracting the amoeba.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday the 11 samples of the Whitewater Center water were positive for the Naegleria Fowleri. Samples taken from the nearby Catawba River did not have the amoeba. However, one sample from the sediment was positive.

The Whitewater Center remained silent after Thursday’s announcement that the CDC discovered the amoeba running throughout their rapids system at unprecedented level.

“At levels we have not previously seen in environmental samples,” said Dr. Jennifer Cope.

Dr. Cope is Medical Epidemiologist at the CDC. She says the CDC ordered the Whitewater Center to immediately stop draining and cleaning the ponds for the safety of the workers. The center regulates itself and did not return messages to comment on whether it has followed that advice.

“We needed to consult with occupational health experts and advise how the workers could be protected during the process of cleaning,” said Dr. Cope.

Dr. Cope confirmed the Whitewater Center’s filtration system of chlorine and UV Light, combined with the debris and algae in the ponds was inadequate to kill the amoeba.

“The chlorine reacts with all of that debris and is automatically consumed,” said Dr. Cope. “So, it is no longer present to inactivate a pathogen like Naegleria, and the same is true with UV light.”

An employee whose identity we agreed to keep anonymous told WCCB Charlotte the center used to clear the debris often but slowed that mucking and dumping process in January.

To see previous report, click here.

“It used to happen every week, every two weeks, and I think this year it’s happened maybe three times,” said the employee.
WCCB Charlotte asked the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s Dr. Stephen Keener if investigators are aware of the mucking and dumping process.

“I’m unfamiliar with that being done on a particular basis interval,” said Dr. Keener. “All we were told is that they were cleaning it out at the end of the season.”

Now the water with the amoeba sits in a pool at the Whitewater Center. Health officials don’t know where to put it yet.

According to the employee, the debris that was mucked and dumped out of the pond after the 18-year-old died, sits in the woods.

The Whitewater Center did send a question and answer release out Thursday. To read it, click here.