Mountain Island Lake Water Testing

Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation uses grant money to pay for testing by an independent laboratory of water, sediment and fish in Mountain Island Lake, which is the primary source of drinking water for Charlotte and several other municipalities.



An on-going issue on the Catawba River, any river, is pollution and it can take several forms and be found in many places. The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation recently sampled bottom sediments, lake water and fish tissues from Mountain Island Lake. With funding from a grant, Catawba Riverkeeper is having these samples tested by an independent laboratory for the presence of eight heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and silver. The samples came from the water adjacent to the Duke Energy's Riverbend Steam Station Coal Ash Ponds in Mountain Island Lake. Effluent from these ponds empty into Mountain Island Lake and contains an unknown amount of contaminants. Approximately three miles downstream is the drinking water intake for the City of Charlotte. Mt. Holly and Gastonia's intakes are a bit farther downstream from there.


              For a larger view of the map click on the image

The purpose of the testing is to independently assess the impact of discharges and runoff from the coal ash ponds from the Riverbend coal-fired powerplant and ash ponds, and to determine if the fish in the lake are safe for human consumption. With over three-quarter of a million people in the Charlotte area dependent on Mountain Island Lake for their drinking water, this is more than a theoretical problem. Duke Energy has said several times that any pollutants present in the lake are within safe and acceptable limits, and that they meet every pollution limit from their discharge. *It's easy to meet a discharge limit that is non-existent.* The State of North Carolina issues discharge permits to Duke Energy that do not have set levels of arsenic concentrations in its discharge from their coal ash ponds.

To gather the fish tissue samples volunteers were recruited to get up early one morning and fish for largemouth bass in Mountain Island Lake. Once enough suitably sized fish were caught they were culled for similar size and then filleted as they might be by everyday fishermen. A composite sample of the largemouth bass tissue taken from the fillets will be evaluated by a lab for the presence of metals and PCBs. Largemouth bass were chosen for this study since heavy metals bioaccumulate as the predatory bass consume the smaller prey fish in the lake. Contaminants such as heavy metals move up the food chain from the smallest fish, invertebrates and plankton, eventually finding their way to the human dinner plate. North Carolina currently has an advisory for consuming largemouth bass caught in state waters due to elevated mercury levels.



 One of the lucky fish that was excluded 
from the sample and was returned 
to the lake alive. This bass weighted 
in at 4 lbs., 7 oz.


Where the Duke ash ponds empty their effluent into MIL a sample from the muck and mud on the lake bottom was taken. The technician from Pace Labs in Huntersville filled 3 jars with sediment that may have been contaminated by the nearby coal ash ponds. 



At the same location he also bottled samples of water for testing by a lab. Water was also sampled at 2 more locations at 50 yard intervals downstream from the ash pond outlet. 



Riverkeeper Merryman and technician Jay Qualtieri coordinate details of the water samples.


Click here to see the results of the testing.


A Channel 36-WCNC Charlotte news story about the sampling can be seen below


For more information on the coal ash pond threat to drinking water issue click here

For more information on coal ash waste click here



 Go to the Catawba Riverkeeper Home Page by clicking here


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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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