Mountain Island lake flood

Since much of the Mountain Island Lake shoreline is protected land, testing is only performed after spillages, like which occurred following the flooding in June.

1. Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation monitors local waters

Staff, interns and volunteers with CRF monitor water quality at several sites along the Catawba River and its chain of lakes. Sampling season starts Memorial Day weekend and ends Labor Day weekend. Water at all sites is sampled for E. coli and turbidity. Basic water chemistry (pH, DO, temp, conductivity) is monitored at some sites. The Environmental Protection Agency sets the criteria for safe swimming at 235 colonies of E. coli per 100 milliliters. High levels of E. coli indicate a health risk for people swimming in the water.

2. Charlotte Storm Water also conducts testing

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services is a joint municipal/county stormwater utility that includes Charlotte, as well as Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville. Storm Water Services works year-round to manage the runoff from rainfall, reduce flooding, restore floodplains and protect the water quality of surface waters. The department’s work includes increasing drainage capacity to meet growth and development demands, repairing and replacing aging storm drainage infrastructure and restoring severely eroded streams and floodplains to hold excess rain.

3. There are three sites on Mountain Island Lake

Water sampling is performed by CRF at one site on the Gaston County side of the lake and two in Mecklenburg throughout the summer: at Horseshoe Lake Road (June 13 to Sept. 1), Nance Cove Road (June 27 to Sept. 1) and Overlook Mountain Drive (June 27 to Sept. 1). Since Mountain Island is the source of Charlotte’s drinking water and is surrounded mostly by protected lands, it has the best water quality of any body in the region, CRF Riverkeeper Brandon Jones said. Therefore, testing is only done after sewer spills, including amid the June flooding.

4. The rate of testing impacts scores

The results of the samples are posted on The Swim Guide’s website, which CRF is partnering with for the first time this year. Recent results indicated on July 25 each of those sites do not meet water quality standards, however Jones said due to the infrequency of the testing, one failed test results in such low grades and current levels would actually pass. The Swim Guide’s map shows other nearby test sites are along the Catawba River at Sadler Island Sandbar and Ramsey Creek Beach on Lake Norman.

5. CRF wants to expand its water testing

Jones would like to expand his organization’s testing. “We’re out of capacity for the number of sites we can do,” he said. “If we have more funding, we could add more sites.” The organization holds paddling “eco-tours” at Tailrace Marina in Mount Holly, scheduled for upcoming Thursdays, Aug. 1 and Aug. 8. Catawba Riverkeeper is providing kayaks and gear to the first 18 people to sign up. The Cost is $10 for CRF members, $20 for non-members and free for those who bring their own kayak or canoe.

To register for the eco-tours or for more information about CRF, visit For information or updates about membership, email To report a problem or request service from Storm Water Services, call 311.


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