All sites pass first Swim Guide test

Published 6:23 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

WASHINGTON [May 26, 2023] — All sites on the Tar-Pamlico passed the first Swim Guide test of the season, but swimmers still need to take caution this Memorial Day weekend.

“While all the sites we sampled met state and federal recreational water-quality standards this week, keep in mind that any time we have a heavy rain, once that rain hits the ground, it’s picking up pollution and running into the closest waterway,” said Clay Barber, Sound Rivers’ Program Director. “This weekend, we’re going to have a lot of rain, so you need to take caution even if our results from Friday say it’s safe to swim at a particular site.”

Exposure to elevated levels of fecal bacteria in the water may come with an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections for pets and humans alike.

“After excessive rain, it’s just generally a good idea to keep your eyes, ears, nose and mouth out of the water,” Barber said.

Swim Guide is an international water-quality program conducted locally by Sound Rivers, an environmental nonprofit based in Raleigh, New Bern and Washington 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 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.

Twenty-three of the 54 Swim Guide sampling sites are located 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, 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 or text “SWIM” to 33222 for weekly water-quality text updates. For more information about Sound Rivers, visit