Six sites fail recreational water-quality testing

Published 3:23 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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Six popular recreational sites tested in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds failed to meet water-quality standards in March.

“We collected samples on Thursday, when much of central and eastern North Carolina was in the middle of a significant rain event, so it’s not surprising that some sites had extremely elevated levels of E. coli. Stormwater runoff can have a carry a lot of bacteria into our waterways,” said Clay Barber, program director for Sound Rivers.

On the Tar-Pamlico, Havens Gardens in Washington and Port Terminal in Greenville failed the Swim Guide water-quality test. On the Neuse, Buffaloe Road and Poole Road in Raleigh, Clayton River Walk in Clayton, and Midyette Street in Oriental also failed.

This scaled-down version of Swim Guide provides monthly water-quality results for sites across the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds until the 2024 summer Swim Guide program starts. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Sound Rivers tests more than 50 popular recreational sites weekly, letting the public know where it’s safe to swim all summer long. In the cooler months, the number of sites tested is scaled back to 18.

“It makes sense to keep the program going year-round because people recreate on our waterways all year long,” Barber said.

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. Each site is given a pass/fail designation based on federal and state water-quality standards.

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, Ferry Bridge Road 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.

Swim Guide results are also posted on the Sound Rivers website at

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.