WASHINGTON, N.C. — Swim Guide came to an abrupt end with the arrival of tropical system Idalia this week.
The recreational water-quality testing program runs from Memorial to Labor Day each year, but potentially unsafe conditions on Thursday prompted environmental nonprofit Sound Rivers to cut the Swim Guide season short by a week.
“Though we didn’t test water samples this week, with the rain and flooding from the storm, it’s pretty safe to assume most sites will fail to meet recreational water-quality standards this week,” said Clay Barber, Sound Rivers program director. “The more rain, the more pollutants and bacteria end up in the waterways from failing septic systems, sewer line breaks and overflowing manholes.”
Elevated levels of fecal bacteria in the water can come with an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections for pets and humans alike, so Sound Rivers recommends people stay out of the water for a few days.
Sound Rivers conducts Swim Guide, an international water-quality program, on a local level.
Each week during summer months, a team of Sound Rivers volunteers gathers water samples at 54 popular recreation sites from the Piedmont to the Pamlico Sound. Sound Rivers’ staff test samples for E. coli in fresh water and enterococci in salt water and pass/fail results are released to the public, providing an easy way to find out where it’s safe to swim.
Seventeen sites are tested each week in the Lower Neuse River basin: Oak Bluff Road and Highway 11 boat ramp near Kinston; Core Creek Landing at Fort Barnwell; Cowpen Landing and Spring Garden boat ramps; Glenburnie Park, Town of Bridgeton Park, Black Beard Sailing Club on upper Broad Creek, Lawson Creek Park, River Bend kayak launch, Trent Woods and Brice’s Creek — all in or near New Bern; the East Street boat ramp in Pollocksville; Slocum Creek boat ramp in Havelock; Rice Creek off the Bay River; and the Midyette Street boat ramp and Sea Harbour Yacht Club at Pierce Creek in Oriental.
Twenty-three sites are tested each week in the Tar-Pamlico River basin: five recreational sites at Lake Royale, near Louisburg; Tar River Reservoir and Battle Park in Rocky Mount; the River Road boat access near Tarboro; Town Common, Wildwood Park and Port Terminal in Greenville; Yankee Hall at Pactolus; the downtown waterfront, Mason’s Landing and Havens Gardens boat ramp in Washington; Chocowinity Bay at Cypress Landing; Broad Creek at Pamlico Plantation; Blounts Bay and Blounts Creek at Cotton Patch Landing; Dinah’s Landing at Goose Creek State Park; Bonner Point and Plum Point on Bath Creek. This week, data was unavailable for one site: Pungo River at Wright’s Creek, near Belhaven.
Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide program is sponsored by the Water-Quality Fund in memory of Gene Pate, Grady-White Boats, Public Radio East, Cummins, UNC Lenoir Health Care, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, UNC Pavel Molchanov
Scholars, ECU SECU Public Fellows Internship Foundation, City of Greenville, Lake Royale Property Owners Association, Melinda Vann and David Silberstein, and Wendy and Tim Wilson. 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.