Advisory lifted, another alert issued for Pamlico River

Published 6:14 pm Thursday, June 8, 2017

State recreational water-quality officials lifted a water-quality swimming advisory Thursday at a sound-side site on Pantego Creek, and issued a swimming alert for another site on the Pamlico River.

The advisory was lifted because water testing shows that bacteria levels have dropped below the state’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s standards set for swimming and water play.

The advisory was posted April 27 at the public access at the intersection of East Main and Tooley streets in Belhaven. At the time, water samples from the site showed a monthly average of the bacteria enterococci above the EPA-mandated level of 35 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water, the standard for high-use sites. Swimming areas are classified based on recreational use and are referred to as tiers. Subsequent testing at this site found that bacteria levels have fallen to within the standard. The sign advising against swimming, skiing or otherwise contacting the water has been removed.

The alert was issued for waters at the Pamlico River-Ragged Point Swim Area near Washington. Test results of water samples collected Wednesday show 207 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water, which exceeds the state and federal single-sample standard of 104 enterococci per 100 milliliters for Tier I high-usage sites.

State officials were scheduled to collect samples from the site again Thursday, and test results of the sampling will dictate further action. If the new samples also show elevated bacteria counts, state officials will post a swimming advisory sign and issue a swimming advisory.

Enterococci, the bacteria group used for testing, are found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While it does not cause illness itself, scientific studies indicate that its presence is closely correlated to the presence of other disease-causing organisms. People swimming or playing in waters with bacteria levels higher than the standards have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness.

Coastal recreational waters in North Carolina are generally clean. However, it is important to continue monitoring them, so the public is informed of any localized problems. The N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program samples 204 sites in coastal waters of the state, most of them on a weekly basis from April through October.

For more information on the N.C. Recreational Water Quality program, visit its website at: or on @ncrecprgm.