WASHINGTON, N.C. — All 32 sites passed the Swim Guide test this week in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse river watersheds — usually a sign that it’s safe to swim in local waters. But multiple fish kills reported on the Pamlico this week might mean harmful algal blooms are at work.
“Water quality is testing fine for our recreational sites, but we are seeing a lot of fish kills on the Pamlico. If you see dead fish; if the water is discolored, murky or has an odd smell, you should avoid that water,” said Sound Rivers’ Executive Director Heather Deck.
Algal blooms often thrive when heavy rains are followed by hot, still weather. Algal blooms deplete the water of oxygen, leading to fish kills, and a dead fish floating in the water is likely home to harmful bacteria.
Swim Guide is an international water-quality program conducted locally by Sound Rivers, an environmental nonprofit with a mission to keep North Carolina’s waterways fishable, swimmable and drinkable.
Each week, a team of Sound Rivers’ volunteers gathers water samples at 46 popular recreation sites along the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins, from the Raleigh-Durham area to the Pamlico Sound. The samples are then tested for the bacteria E. coli by Sound Rivers’ staff, and results are released to the public, providing an easy way to find out where it’s safe to swim. Where it’s not, boaters, swimmers and their pets should avoid the water or practice caution at these sites, as exposure to bacteria-laden waters comes with an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections.
Fourteen sites are tested in the Lower Neuse River basin: near Kinston — Oak Bluff Road and Kinston Boating Access Area; on the Neuse near New Bern — Core Creek at Fort Barnwell, Cowpen Landing, Spring Garden Boat Ramp, Glenburnie, Bridgeton Park, upper Broad Creek at Blackbeard Sailing Club; and on the Trent River — Lawson Creek Park, East Street Boat Ramp at Pollocksville, River Bend Kayak Launch, Trent Woods, Brice’s Creek and Slocum Creek.
Eighteen sites are tested each week in the Tar-Pamlico River basin: at Rocky Mount — Tar River Reservoir and Battle Park; at River Road near Tarboro; at Greenville — Town Common, Wildwood Park, Port Terminal and Yankee Hall; at Washington — Mason’s Landing, Washington waterfront, Haven’s Garden Boat Ramp, Chocowinity Bay at Cypress Landing, Swan Point, Broad Creek at Pamlico Plantation, Blounts Bay and Blounts Creek at Cotton Patch Landing; at Bath — Bonner Point and Plum Point; and Belhaven — Pungo River at Woodstock Point.
Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide program is sponsored by Grady-White Boats, the Water-Quality Monitoring Fund in memory of Gene Pate, UNC-Lenoir Health Care, Northwest Creek Marina, UNC Pavel Molchanov Scholars, Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, Cypress Landing, ECU SECU Public Fellows Internship Foundation, Coastal Carolina Health Care, Restoration Systems, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, US Foods, and David Silberstein and Melinda Vann.
To sign up for Swim Guide notifications, go to www.soundrivers.org/swimguide or text “SWIM” to 33222 for weekly water-quality text updates. For more information about Sound Rivers, visit soundrivers.org.