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Avoid Water at 2 Beaufort County Sites: State

An advisory, marked with red at the top right of the map, and an alert, marked with yellow on the left side of the map, were issued against swimming today at two sound-side sites in Beaufort County. Map: NCDEQ

Update Friday: The alert at the Ragged Point swim area in the Pamlico River near Washington was lifted, the state announced Friday.

Original post:

The state on Thursday recommended not swimming at two soundside sites in Beaufort County.

An advisory was issued against swimming at a public access in Belhaven and an alert for a swim area near Washington.

State recreational water quality officials found bacteria levels in the water at both sites that exceed the state’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s recreational water quality standards.

A sign is posted at the public access to Pantego Creek at the intersection of East Main and Tooley streets in Belhaven. The advisory is not a beach closing, nor does the advisory affect the entire Pantego Creek area. Swimming advisories affect water within 200 feet of the sign.

Test results of water samples from the site indicate a running monthly average bacteria level of 43 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water. This exceeds the state and federal standards of a running monthly average of 35 enterococci per 100 milliliters, based on five samples taken within a 30-day period.

State officials will test the site again next week, and they will remove the sign and notify the public again when the bacteria levels decrease to levels below the standards.

The alert is for waters at the Ragged Point swim area in the Pamlico River near Washington. Test results of water samples collected yesterday show a bacteria level of 150 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water, which exceeds the state and federal single-sample standard of 104 enterococci per 100 milliliters for Tier 1 high-usage sites. Swimming areas are classified based on recreational use and are referred to as tiers.

A sign was not posted at the Pamlico River site, but public notification is required. State officials will test this site again Thursday, and the results of the sampling will dictate further action. If the new sample also shows elevated bacteria counts, state officials will issue a swimming advisory.

Enterococci, the bacteria group used for testing, are found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While it is not known to cause illness, scientific studies indicate that enterococci may indicate the presence of other disease-causing organisms. People swimming or playing in waters with bacteria levels higher than the standards have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness or skin infections.

Recreational water quality officials sample 210 sites throughout the coastal region, most of them on a weekly basis, from April to October. Testing continues on a reduced schedule during the rest of the year, when fewer people are in the water.

The N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program has made available online a map of the testing sites, and can be found on Twitter.

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.