Bacteria high at three Swim Guide sites this week

Published 4:08 pm Friday, June 23, 2023

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WASHINGTON [June 23, 2023] — Three sites on the Tar-Pamlico failed the Swim Guide test this week: Havens Gardens and Pamlico Plantation in Washington, and Cotton Patch Landing on Blounts Creek.

“We can blame the rain for some of the results this week — any time you have periods of heavy, or even steady, rain, you’re going to get more pollutants running off into local waterways,” said Clay Barber, Sound Rivers’ Program Director. “It doesn’t mean you have to avoid the water altogether, but you do want to take precautions—keep your head above water and if you have an open sore, or wound, keep it away from the water to prevent infection.”

A Swim Guide “fail” means water sampled has elevated levels of fecal bacteria which can come with increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections for pets and humans alike.

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, 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 or text “SWIM” to 33222 for weekly water-quality text updates. For more information about Sound Rivers, visit