Swim Guide goes year-round

Published 4:25 pm Monday, October 31, 2022

Sound Rivers is taking water-quality testing year-round.

For five years, the conservation organization has provided the public service that lets people know where it’s safe to swim in local waterways, from the Raleigh-Durham area to the Pamlico Sound — but only from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Now, a scaled-down version is running until Memorial Day 2023, with monthly results provided for 13 sites across the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds. In the height of swim season, Sound Rivers tests more than 50 sites weekly.

“We know that recreation in our waterways is not limited to the summer months, so we wanted to provide water-quality information all year round,” said Jill Howell, Sound Rivers’ Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper. “We picked some sites to provide coverage, some spots that have had issues over the past Swim Guide season, and spots where we know people are still recreating— but they’re all public-access spots.”

This first week of testing, two of the 13 sites failed: Lawson Creek Park on the Trent River and Glenburnie Park on the Neuse, both in New Bern.

“Lawson Park was also the location of a fish kill last week, which could be related to the high levels of bacteria,” said Katy Hunt, Sound Rivers’ staff scientist.

Sites are monitored for E. coli bacteria in freshwater and enterococci bacteria in brackish or salt water, both of which can cause an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections in both humans and their pets. Sites are given a pass/fail designation based on federal and state water-quality standards.

In the Neuse River watershed, samples will be tested from public-access points at Falls Lake and Buffaloe Road in Raleigh, the Riverwalk in Clayton, the bridge at N.C. Highway 11 in Kinston, Lawson Creek and Glenburnie parks in New Bern and off Midyette Street in Oriental.

In the Tar-Pamlico watershed, samples will be tested from Port Terminal, Town Common, Wildwood Park, Havens Gardens, Dinah’s Landing and Cotton Patch Landing.

Sample dates are Oct. 27, Nov. 17, Dec. 15, Jan. 26, Feb. 23, March 30 and April 27.
Monthly results will be released to the public at soundrivers.org/swimguide, through local media and via text. To sign up for text alerts, text “SWIM” to 33222 to have results delivered weekly. For results in Spanish, text “NADAR” to 33222.

Based in Raleigh, New Bern and Washington, Sound Rivers has worked for more than 40 years to protect the health of the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico rivers and the communities that rely on them. The two watersheds cover nearly a quarter of North Carolina.

Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide program is sponsored by Grady-White Boats and Greenville Rotary Club (evening). For more information, visit soundrivers.org.