Bathers were allowed to resume swimming in Hope Mills Lake just before the town started a series of celebrations in honor of the lake’s return earlier this year.
While the whole community is enjoying the restoration of the town’s iconic centerpiece, town manager Melissa Adams said town officials are working behind the scenes to make sure the lake water is safe and to instruct people on how to have the best possible experience when going in the water.
The final test of the water that determined it was safe for swimming was conducted June 25 by Micobac Laboratories of Fayetteville.
Adams said the tests have been looking for fecal coliform bacteria, which is found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, especially the geese that have come to call Hope Mills Lake home.
Adams said the June test showed levels of the bacteria well under the state minimum for a body of fresh water like the lake.
The state of North Carolina doesn’t require the town to test the water of the lake, but Adams said the town has elected to do it to ensure the safety of the public.
The next step, Adams said, will be developing a policy for regular testing of the lake water to make sure the bacteria remains within safe limits. They will also come up with a plan for what to do should the test results show a higher concentration of bacteria.
Adams said the new plan may have been presented to the board prior to the writing of this article at a Board of Commissioners meeting scheduled for July 9.
“It may just be an initial draft, if we haven’t gotten approval by the town attorney or the state hasn’t given their blessing,’’ Adams said. “We may put it back on the agenda for another day for approval.’’
Adams expects the policy will include things like when the testing will take place, what will be tested for and what the town will do if the test results exceed state limits for bacteria.
As for the ongoing problem of the geese, which appear to be at the root of the problem of the previous high readings for bacteria, Adams said the town has already decided not to use the services of a firm in Moore County that provides border collies to chase off the geese.
A possible temporary fix to the problem was provided by the recent lake celebration activities, Adams said. “With so much activity at the lake that’s going to keep them a little bit at bay,’’ she said.
Adams said the town continues to have a problem with people feeding the geese at the lake. She implored them to stop because it keeps the geese coming to the lake for food, food that is actually bad for them.
“It is imperative that the public stop feeding the geese,’’ she said. “It’s very bad for them. It causes them to have diarrhea.’’
Adams said the owner of the border collies they considered using to chase off the geese warned them that if the feeding continues, geese will continue migrating to the lake because it’s a source of food for them.
Something else that could deter the geese from coming to the lake is a bulkhead the town commissioners have debated having built along the grassy lakefront. The bulkhead would serve as a barrier to prevent the geese from having easy access from the grassy front shore of the lake into the water.
“That would help deter the geese,’’ Adams said. “They don’t like barriers.’’
Even if the bacteria levels in the lake are low, people still need to take precautions when swimming there.
The state of North Carolina has published safety guidelines for swimming in bodies of fresh water, and Adams said the town plans to use those to help educate the public.
“People can take simple precautions to protect themselves,’’ Adams said.