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September 23, 2017 5:50 pm EST
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Funding agreement allows continued recreational water quality monitoring

RALEIGH – The state will be able to continue water quality testing at 38 coastal swimming sites that had been on the chopping block due to cuts in federal funding.

The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, or APNEP, provided a $20,000 grant to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to continue monitoring the sites in northeastern North Carolina.

“This is a great example of the inter-divisional partnerships and coordination being instituted within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, or DMF. “This funding is a huge help to a program that is very important to our coastal region and our many constituents.”

Bill Crowell, director of APNEP, echoed Daniel’s sentiments.

“This program is vital to public health along our coasts. In lean financial times, we’re pleased that our advisory board can provide support to DMF in these critical efforts.”

The 38 swimming sites are along the Neuse River, The Pamlico River, Pantego Creek near Belhaven, Swan Quarter Bay in Hyde County, Vandemere Creek in Pamlico County, and tributaries of the Albemarle Sound. More than half of the 38 sites are at public beaches or near popular summer camps including Camp Vandemere, Camp Don Lee, Camp Hardee, Camp Caroline, Camp Seafarer and Camp Seagull.

The division receives federal assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the Recreational Water Quality Program. Due to budget reductions that were part of the federal government sequestration, the program had planned to suspend the monitoring of 41 sampling sites until funding was restored.

Afterward, Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base agreed to take over testing of two sites on the New River, the swimming beach at Southwest Creek and at the mouth of Northeast Creek.

Sites monitored through the division’s Recreational Water Quality Program are tested for high bacterial concentrations in coastal recreational waters to protect public health. The program notifies the public when bacteria levels exceed standards for safe bodily contact. Swimming in polluted waters can cause gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes and infections.

Sites are tested during the swimming season that runs from April 1 to Oct. 31. All ocean beaches and high-use sound-side beaches are tested weekly from April through September; lower-use beaches are tested twice a month.

In addition to protecting public health, the program provides a long-term source of data to study water quality trends in North Carolina’s sounds. Many of these sites have been regularly monitored since 1997.

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