Bacteria levels in local waters normal after Tropical Storm Hermine

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People enjoying activities in Banks Channel in Wrightsville Beach on Friday afternoon. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
People enjoying activities in Banks Channel in Wrightsville Beach on Friday afternoon. (Photo by Hannah Leyva)

Following storms or flooding events, bacteria levels in coastal waters tend to rise slightly, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“We usually issue precautionary advisories following storms,” said Erin Bryan-Millush, an environmental specialist with the Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section of the Division of Marine Fisheries, which falls under the DEQ. “Stormwater is one of the major contributors to water quality problems.”

This week, state officials have spent days testing samples for levels of enterococci, a bacteria that affects the gastrointestinal tract and can cause flu-like symptoms. On Friday, the results from the last samples came in, and all local waters have met state and federal recreational water standards.

“All of the waters in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties have tested well,” Bryan-Millush said. “That includes all ocean and sound-side waters.”

Bryan-Millush said her colleague check waters up and down the North Carolina coast on a weekly basis during the summer to make sure they are safe for swimming, surfing, boating, kayaking and other water activities. The data is published online, as is a map of all the individual testing sites in all counties, on the division’s website.