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Sound Rivers launches water quality new app, text service

Summer is approaching, and with it, come the many opportunities to get out on the waterways of Beaufort County. But where to swim?

This week, Sound Rivers launched its participation in Swim Guide, a new app that lets would-be swimmers know where it’s safe to swim — and where it’s not.

Friday, the first local water quality report could be found on Sound Rivers’ website:

“Samples taken this week at Blounts Creek at Cotton Patch Landing, Broad Creek at Pamlico Plantation, Bath Creek at Bonner Point, Pungo River at Woodstock Point, Brices Creek at Creekside Park, Lawson Creek at Lawson Creek Park, and Trent River at River Bend exceeded water quality standards for bacteria. Recreational users are advised to use caution near these locations.”

The reports will come weekly through the app, website updates and text alerts, for those who subscribe to the service. Sound Rivers volunteers will be collecting water samples throughout the summer, with samples tested in the local office.

“We just want to make sure that people have the information about whether it’s safe to go jump in the water and not worry about getting sick,” said Forrest English, Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper.

The primary danger is exposure through the water to e. coli bacteria and fecal coliform bacteria, which can cause gastrointestinal problems in people. The presence of these types of bacteria in local waters can come from a variety of sources, English said.

“Rain, in particular, can wash off of agricultural sites, sewage spills, leaky septic tanks,” English said. “There’s some degree of it that occurs naturally from wildlife, but the concentrations we’re worried about usually happen in a much more concentrated fashion and are usually derived through agriculture.”

English said the Swim Guide program will add to the recreational water quality program already in place under the Department of Environmental Quality, and localize its results to give real time alerts as to where it’s safe to swim. Created by the Waterkeepers Alliance in Canada,  the Swim Guide app and website tracks water quality at thousands of sites across North America and other sites in Mexico, New Zealand and Australia.

To view weekly updates and a map of test sites online, visit soundrivers.org/swimguide. To receive text alerts about local water quality, text SWIM to 33222. The Swim Guide smartphone app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google play.

Sound Rivers is also seeking volunteers to help with water sample collection. For more information, call 252-946-7211.