Study finds 93 NC beaches polluted enough to make you sick

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Environment North Carolina analyzed beaches in dozens of coastal and Great Lake states and Puerto Rico to determine how safe beaches were to swim in across the country. Researchers said 57 million people get sick every from contaminated beaches, rivers, lakes or ponds.

Overall, the team found 386, or one in eight beaches surveyed, were potentially unsafe at least 25 percent of test days. Another 3,172 were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one test day.

Source: Environment North Carolina

Overall, Gulf Coast beaches were the most polluted and unsafe for swimmers. Environment North Carolina found 223 out of 266 test sites had heightened levels of pollutants. East Coast beaches were the least polluted with 928 out of 1,820 sites testing potentially unsafe.

Source: Environment North Carolina

Unsafe NC beaches

Environment North Carolina found 93 of 209 North Carolina beaches sampled tested positive for fecal contamination on at least one test day.

Beaches where samples were taken tested safe for swimmers a majority of the time. While some beaches in other states were unsafe up to 100 percent of test days (see table in ‘Most contaminated beaches nationwide’ section) North Carolina beaches were largely safe at least 70 percent of test days.

Colington Harbour Beach tested potentially unsafe for six test days making it the beach you should be most weary of. However, Palmico River, City Park in Washington has the largest percentage of testing days with potentially unsafe water. The water was deemed potentially unsafe on five occasions there.

Overall, Beaufort County had the largest percentage of days with potentially unsafe water. That was followed by Craven County.

The following are some of the popular North Carolina beaches found to have potentially unsafe beach waters on at least one test day:

  • Wrightsville Beach
  • Emerald Isle
  • Atlantic Beach
  • Nags Head
  • Kitty Hawk
  • Cape Hatteras
  • Morehead City

Percentages of days water could be unsafe for swimmer.
Source: Environment North Carolina

What’s in the water?

Environment North Carolina said fecal matter contamination is what is making beaches unsafe for swimmers. Their report said fecal pollution can cause respiratory, ear, eye and skin issues.

Fecal pollution is becoming an increasing threat according to Environment North Carolina. They credited more extreme rainfalls flushing stormwater into beaches.

Environment North Carolina said increasing development has made it easier for runoff to move over paved surfaces and into water ways.

The country’s aging infrastructure and sewage systems often spill dangerous sewage and overflow as many as 75,000 times each year. The delayed maintenance results in contamination of bodies of water.

The report from Environment North Carolina said excess manure from factory farms washed away by rain can pull contaminants into waterways creating public health risks.

Most contaminated beaches nationwide

BEACHSTATEPERCENTAGE OF UNSAFE DAYS
Kings FerryGeorgia100%
Sylvan Beach ParkTexas99%
Sargent BeachTexas94%
Rockaway Beach/Sunset Bay State ParkOregon90%
Myrtle BeachSouth Carolina82%
Source: Environment North Carolina

Click here to read the report in its entirety.

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