Recreational Water Quality

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The NC Recreational Water Quality Program does not test for Vibrio bacteria as they are naturally occurring in coastal waters.  For more information pertaining to Vibrio infections, please visit the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

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Swimming Advisory means either that enterococci levels have exceeded EPA Standards for two consecutive tests or that enterococci levels of five samples collected within 30 days exceeds EPA standards. 

Pending Swimming Advisory means that enterococci levels are elevated. The results from a second water sample will determine whether a Swimming Advisory will be issued or if the Pending Swimming Advisory is rescinded.

No Pending Swimming Advisory/Swimming Advisory means that enterococci levels are within the EPA standards for swimming at this particular monitoring site.

Precautionary Advisory – stormwater discharge area, including areas impacted by excessive rain events.

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The N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program began testing coastal waters in 1997. Our mission is to protect the public health by monitoring the quality of N.C.'s coastal recreational waters and notifying the public when bacteriological standards for safe bodily contact are exceeded. The coastal waters monitored include the ocean beaches, sounds, bays and estuarine rivers.

We test for enterococcus bacteria, an indicator organism found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While it will not cause illness itself, its presence is correlated with that of organisms that can cause illness.

The program tests 221 swimming sites, most of them on a weekly basis during the swimming season, which runs from April through September. All ocean beaches and high-use sound-side beaches are tested weekly from April though September; lower-use beaches are tested twice a month. All sites are tested twice a month in October and monthly from November through March. Water quality sampling results for all locations are posted on this site along with information about archived swimming advisories. In most cases swimming advisories will not be issued during the non-swimming season from Nov. 1 to March 31.

collecting water samples at athe beach

 Thank you to our partners at the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership & the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

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The Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section have three microbiology laboratories on the coast to meet the needs of the sampling programs and timeframes for testing procedures. One is located in Morehead City at the main office and the other two at field office sites in Wilmington and Manteo.

The laboratories provide for all analyses required to meet program objectives for the National Shellfish Sanitation Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies BEACH's Act. All three laboratories are certified by U.S. Food and Drug Administration for compliance with NSSP requirements. All laboratory analyses for the bacteriological survey for the shellfish sanitation program are performed in our laboratories. Annually more than 10,000 water samples are tested in each lab. The laboratory is inspected by the United States Food and Drug Administration for compliance with National Shellfish Sanitation Program requirements.