MOREHEAD CITY, NC (NCDENR) –- An advisory against swimming was posted today at an ocean-side site in Brunswick County, where state officials found bacteria levels in the water that exceed state and Environmental Protection Agency recreational water quality standards.
The advisory affects waters at the public beach access at Lighthouse Park off Caswell Beach Road in Caswell Beach, where test results indicate a running monthly geometric mean average of 41 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water, based on five samples taken within a 30-day period. This exceeds the state and federal standards of a running monthly average of 35 enterococci per 100 milliliters for high usage sites.
Enterococci, the name for the group of bacteria used for testing, are found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While the bacteria group’s presence does not cause illness itself, scientific studies indicate that the presence of enterococci is closely correlated to the presence of other organisms that may cause illness. People swimming or playing in waters with bacteria levels higher than the standards have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness or skin infections.
This advisory is not a beach closing, nor does the advisory affect the entire Caswell Beach area. Swimming advisories affect water within 200 feet of the sign. The sign posted reads as follows:
SWIMMING IN THIS AREA IS NOT RECOMMENDED. BACTERIA TESTING INDICATES LEVELS OF CONTAMINATION THAT MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. THIS ADVISORY AFFECTS WATERS WITHIN 200’ OF THIS SIGN.
OFFICE OF THE STATE HEALTH DIRECTOR
State officials will continue testing the site, and they will remove the sign and notify the public again when the bacteria levels decrease to levels below the standards. The state Recreational Water Quality Program samples 240 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.
For more information on the N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program, visit the program’s website at: http://www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/shellfish/Water_Monitoring/RWQweb/index.htm or on Twitter.com @ncrecprgm.