Local News

Wake to hire lab to find source of lake contamination

Posted July 23, 2009 5:39 p.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2009 7:04 p.m. EDT

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— A Wake County environmental services official said Thursday that the county plans to hire an independent laboratory to determine the source of bacteria that keeps forcing beaches at Falls Lake to close.

Beaverdam and Sandling beaches off of N.C. Highway 50 have closed temporarily to swimmers three times this summer because of elevated levels of enterococci in the water.

Enterococci is typically found in the digestive tracts and feces of warm-blooded animals and can cause infections and diarrhea.

"We believe there is a technique where we can determine if it's from people, mammals, birds," Environmental Services Director Tommy Esqueda said. "Where we can kind of isolate that."

In each case this summer, the lakes have registered levels of bacteria higher than those the Environmental Protection Agency has set as acceptable – 60 colony forming units (cfu) per 100 millimeters.

Each time, the beach reopened days later after the bacteria levels fell within those standards. The most recent closure happened at Beaverdam Beach. It closed Tuesday after routine tests found bacteria levels to be more than 100 cfu, and reopened Thursday.

County officials urge beachgoers to practice good hygiene when using the beaches. That includes washing hands with soap and water, and thoroughly showering after swimming, tubing or skiing in Falls Lake.