Whitewater Center reopens rafting activities after death

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Officials with the U.S. National Whitewater Center said they have been granted a permit to resume whitewater rapid activities, WSOC reports.

Health officials said the center could not reopen for whitewater sports until the county issued a newly required permit for the facility where an Ohio visitor contracted a deadly infection last summer.

Whitewater Center Communications Manager Eric Osterhus said the permit had been issued and whitewater activities would resume.

The Whitewater Center applied Feb. 23 for the annual operating permit from the county health department. The center was scheduled to resume water activities on March 4.

The rafting channels have been closed since last summer. After the channels were drained, cleaned and refilled, county staff from Environmental Health monitored and tested the water on a regular basis to ensure chlorine levels remained stable.

The permit can be suspended if the center doesn’t meet water quality or safety standards.

The county began requiring the permit after 18-year-old Lauren Seitz of Westerville, Ohio, died of a rare brain infection caused by a single-celled animal, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, after visiting the center on June 8.

The amoeba is widespread in warm, open waters. Infections are rare but almost always fatal.