Sound Rivers starts monthly Swim Guide testing

Published 4:18 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

Swim Guide is going year-round for a second year.

For six years, conservation organization Sound Rivers has provided the service, letting the public know where it’s safe to swim in waterways throughout the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins.

This scaled-down, year-round version of Swim Guide will run until Memorial Day 2024, with monthly water-quality results provided for 17 popular recreational sites from Raleigh to Oriental. During the summer months, Sound Rivers’ staff test more than 50 sites weekly.

Sites being tested monthly on the Neuse include Rolling View on Falls Lake; Buffaloe Road and Poole Road in Raleigh; Clayton River Walk; Busco Beach and the Neuse River boat ramp in Goldsboro; the boating access and Cliffs of the Neuse State Park’s swim area in Seven Springs; the N.C. Highway 11 boat ramp in Kinston; Lawson Creek in New Bern; Slocum Creek in Havelock; and the Midyette Street boat ramp in Oriental. Sites on the Tar-Pamlico are Stith-Talbert Park in Rocky Mount; Wildwood Park and Port Terminal in Greenville; and Havens Gardens and Pamlico Plantation in Washington.

This week, Havens Gardens, Lawson Creek, Slocum Creek, Seven Springs boating access, Busco Beach and the Neuse River boat ramp in Goldsboro failed to meet recreational water-quality standards.

Sound Rivers Volunteer Coordinator Emily Fritz said the scaled-down, year-round Swim Guide serves two purposes.

“It’s still important information we’re able to provide to the public because people are recreating, boating and fishing all year round,” Fritz said. “It also allows us to keep an eye on problem sites throughout the year.”

Slocum Creek failed to meet recreational water-quality standards 86% of the times it was tested during the regular Swim Guide season, prompting an ongoing Sound Rivers investigation into the source of pollution. During the latter part of the season, Kinston’s Highway 11 boat ramp also failed multiple times. On the Tar-Pamlico, Havens Gardens and Pamlico Plantation had sporadic results, as well.

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.

A new partnership with Wayne Community College’s science department is now providing much-needed coverage of an area of the Neuse River previously not included in Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide. The testing of the four sites in the Silver Springs and Goldsboro area will be part of the curriculum for biology classes.

“They were very excited about their data being used,” Fritz said. “It’s kind of a perfect match, since we had that gap in Swim Guide.”

Swim Guide sampling will occur on the last Thursday of each month, and results will be posted the following day on the Sound Rivers website at soundrivers.org.

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 the Water Quality Fund in Memory of Gene Pate.