Friday, March 1, 2024

NC Coastal Federation finds high levels of bacteria, says coastal waters ‘not safe’ for swimming

Though N.C. Coastal Federation cannot disclose exactly how elevated fecal bacteria levels are, the environmental group is urging people to stay out of coastal waters based on their water quality testing.

Bacteria levels in areas of Wrightsville Beach are "elevated" according to the North Carolina Coastal Federation. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Bacteria levels in areas of Wrightsville Beach are “elevated” according to the North Carolina Coastal Federation. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — With most state testing offline or delayed, North Carolina Coastal Federation has stepped in to provide an analysis of coastal water quality. The results? Not good.

The N.C. Coastal Federation recorded “elevated levels of bacteria” at multiple locations around Wrightsville Beach this week.

RELATED: Post-storm health concerns: Compromised water quality, gastrointestinal illnesses spike

Samples taken near Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier, Wynn Plaza at Banks Channel, and the Wrightsville Beach boat ramp revealed elevated levels of E. Coli and Enterococcus.

Fecal bacteria

The presence of fecal bacteria in these areas is likely connected to “massive amounts of polluted runoff,” according to a N.C. Coastal Federation release.

As requested by the state, Kerri Allen, a coastal advocate for N.C. Coastal Federation, said the group cannot yet disclose exactly how high the bacteria levels are.

“They endorsed that we go ahead and just try to advise people to try to stay out of the water for now until they’re able to resume their testing at the state level and get some solid numbers out there,” Allen said.

Because of damage incurred during Hurricane Florence, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been unable to conduct any water quality testing in the Wilmington area, Allen said.

Based on their readings, N.C. Coastal Federation has stated, “it’s not yet safe to swim and wade in coastal waters.”

The group’s release states coastal swimming waters are likely polluted with bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Though Dare and Currituck Counties have been given the green light, the state continued its swimming advisory for all other coastal counties on Monday, including Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender.

“The public continues to swim in the ocean and sounds despite these advisories,” Todd Miller, executive director of N.C. Coastal Federation, said. “We feel it’s vital to let people know that the state has not yet tested any waters to determine if they are safe for human contact.”

However, the federation staff has observed people swimming in the ocean and estuaries. The federation is warning them that coastal waters are not safe for swimming and wading.

Read N.C. Coastal Federation’s announcement in its entirety here.

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at

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