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Birds likely behind frequent Lake Wheeler beach closures

Posted September 1, 2009

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— Wake County environmental officials are asking people not to feed the birds after closing the beach Tuesday at Lake Wheeler for the fifth time this month when elevated bacteria levels were found.

Lake Wheeler beach closed for fifth time in August Lake Wheeler beach closed for fifth time in August

Routine tests showed levels of enterococci bacteria exceeded standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Levels of enterococci should not exceed 60 colony forming units (cfu) per 100 milliliters. Tests Tuesday found 67.7 of enterococci. With prior closures, higher than normal levels of E. coli bacteria have also been found in the water.

Those bacteria can cause infections and lead to diarrhea.

Richard Costello, of the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department, said Tuesday that bird waste is the primary cause of the high bacteria levels.

It is not against the rules to feed the birds, but Costello is asking people not to do it since it is causing bacteria problems.

“The only way to stop this issue is to stop feeding the geese,” Costello said.

The beach closure bans any activity in which a person's head goes underwater, including kayaking, Sunfish sail boating and wind surfing lessons. The city always prohibits swimming at Lake Wheeler.

“I didn't know that it (Lake Wheeler) had been closed four times. That’s kind of icky,” parent Jennifer McFarland said before the beach was closed again Tuesday.

Fishing, water skiing, tubing and other boat rentals are still permitted. However, boater Ronnie Coats said he thinks the frequent closures are keeping people from partaking in those activities too.

“Every time I come down here, there is generally one boat and me,” Coats said.

The beach will remained closed until bacteria levels meet EPA standards for two straight days.

Costello said frequent rain has also contributed to the problem as more runoff water is making its way into the lake.

To help cut down on excessive bacteria, park officials said they started removing bird waste from the beach instead of pushing it into the water. Officials said they are also looking for ways to move the birds' habitat so fewer of them will call the beach home.


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  • 68_polara Sep 2, 2009

    Anyone know if this bacteria could make the fish from these areas dangerous to eat?

  • time4real Sep 2, 2009

    bird stew and no more problem!

  • GravyPig Sep 2, 2009

    I have been told that our sunbeam and merita sandwich breads have certain preservatives that when they go through a ducks digestive system cause a certain kind of bacteria to form. I have been told it was called duck but or duck itch. The bacteria causes humans who come in contact with it to get a rash or have itchy skin.

    I would imagine with all the picnic areas that the water fowl are getting a healthy helping of sandwich bread.

  • The Fox Sep 2, 2009

    Two words: Duck Diapers. Don't believe me? Google it.

  • for_shame Sep 2, 2009

    I think we should realize that we have taken over all the watering spots these geese and other birds have used for long before we got here. Additionally, all that buildup of land around there causes runoff to increase which is why runoff is mentioned in the article. Normally rainwater can flow into the ground and get filtered as it returns to the water table. All that pavement, concrete, and housing is not water permeable.

  • Adelinthe Sep 2, 2009

    If this were true, every lake and pond with ducks, geese, etc., would be experiencing the same thing - and they're not.

    The sewage spill from Cary last year ruined that lake. It will take a long time before it's set to right again because the stuff keeps getting stirred up from the bottom with every hard rain.

    God bless.


  • dryjr Sep 2, 2009

    Goose season opened yesterday, I'll be glad to take care of them. I said from the beginning this was the cause.

  • iron fist Sep 2, 2009

    How can you be involved in any water sport without swimming?

  • shortcake53 Sep 2, 2009

    Have you ever seen a waterskier go down and NOT get his face underwater?? And there WAS a time when swimming was allowed, they even had a roped off area for swimmers so boaters wouldnt hurt someone. Whoever did the "research" for this story, great job.

  • SomeRandomGuy Sep 1, 2009

    I HATE geese!