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Elevated levels of bacteria found at Lake Wheeler boat launches

Wake County officials are asking people to stay out of the water at Lake Wheeler's boat launching areas due to elevated levels of bacteria, based on Environmental Protection Agency standards, county officials announced Friday. The lake is not closed to fishing.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County officials are asking people to stay out of the water at Lake Wheeler's boat launching areas due to elevated levels of bacteria, based on Environmental Protection Agency standards, county officials announced Friday. The lake is not closed to fishing.

Storm water runoff and goose excrement are to blame for the elevated levels, according to Richard Costello, of the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department.

The county routinely tests recreational lakes for bacteria and when bacteria levels of enterococci exceed EPA standards, the areas are closed to “primary contact recreation,” which is swimming or any activity where your head may go underwater. The county samples the lakes weekly each summer.

“Our goal is to eliminate the potential for citizens to come into contact with excessive levels of bacteria, as that could result in creating illness conditions for individuals," said Wake County Environmental Services Director Tommy Esqueda.

"We will continue to collect water samples on a daily basis for the area and reopen the lake for swimming as soon as the bacteria levels fall below the EPA-established standards. After we observe two consecutive days of acceptable bacteria levels, the area will be reopened for recreation.”

Acceptable levels of enterococci should not exceed 61 colony forming units per 100 milliliters; 1,413 cfu were found.

Citizens are reminded to always wash hands with soap and water, and thoroughly shower after tubing or skiing in area lakes to reduce chances of contracting a recreational water illness.

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Kelly Hinchcliffe, Web Editor

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