There’s no swimming in Hope Mills Lake for the time being, but it appears town officials will be swimming through a lot of red tape in the weeks ahead to get approval before residents can take advantage of the restored town landmark.
According to Beth Brown, the town’s stormwater administrator, there’s no one on the town staff with a background in lake management. Brown said her background is in stormwater and stream standards, adding that the rules governing lakes are considerably different.
Microbac Laboratories on Hope Mills Road, which does stormwater testing for the town, was asked to conduct a test of the water in the lake.
Town manager Melissa Adams shared a report on the results of the test at the most recent meeting of the town’s board of commissioners.
The swimming area tested over the regulatory limit for fecal coliform, a form of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals.
The bacteria itself isn’t likely to cause illness, according to information on the N.C. Public Health website, but its presence in water indicates other disease-causing organisms could be in the water.
The next steps involved in determining the quality of the water in the lake are in the hands of outside agencies, Brown and Adams said.
Those two agencies are a company called Mogensen Mitigation and the North Carolina Division of Water Resources.
When water returned to Hope Mills Lake earlier this year, the town was required to have a contract with Mogensen Mitigation starting on May 1.
Mogensen will test the lake for dissolved oxygen, temperature and water depth for the first year water is impounded in the lake.
This is done in accordance with requirements from the Division of Water Resources and the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers.
However, these tests have nothing to do with the safety of the water for human swimming. They are involved with determining the quality of the water for the aquatic life in the lake.
How safe the water is for swimming falls under the jurisdiction of the Division of Water Resources.
“We have reached out to the Division of Water Resources to try to find out who is responsible for testing and what parameters we need to be testing for to determine if it’s safe for public swimming,’’ Brown said. There is a Fayetteville office for the Division of Water Services, but as of May 8, Brown said no one from that office had responded or given any indication when they would respond.
Swimming in the lake was suspended immediately, effective May 4. Adams said the town was caught by surprise that people were already swimming this early and decided to institute the ban for the safety of everyone.
While swimming is temporarily banned, Adams said people are not prohibited from using the lake for boating and fishing as long as they don’t go into the water.
All fishing at the lake is catch and release until the fish population is allowed to grow.
If the safety of the water becomes a greater concern, Adams said there could be later discussion about curtailing boating activities as well.