Beaches along the coast tested weekly for bacteria in water

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WITN) – Beach season is almost here, which is why one department in the east wants to ensure the safety of beachgoers by testing the water.

The Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Department tests the water on coast of North Carolina between state lines. Last year, there were a total of 14 swimming advisories from stormwater and only one was not near the sound.

Eastern Carolina has a lot of people from out of state visiting the beautiful beaches along the coast.

“We are here to take in the sun and walk our dog since she hasn’t been to the beach before,” said Chris Baskin, a beachgoer visiting from Maryland.

Though the clear water and waves crashing against the sand sounds relaxing, the Department of Water Quality says it can also cause health concerns.

The testing takes place among 216 water monitoring locations along the coast of Eastern Carolina.

“More than half of those are monitored weekly during the swimming season which starts April 1 and ends at the end of October,” said Erin Bryan-Millush, Recreational Water Quality Program Manager.

Baskin says the beaches along the coast are nothing like he experienced while in California.

“I lived in San Diego,” said Baskin. “The water there was not very clean, so anywhere is pretty much better than there.”

When it comes to determining the safety of water quality, Bryan-Millush says they put the samples under a black light to see the different levels. To be considered safe water levels, 10 or less samples need to light up.

“Anytime we have elevated rainfall amounts,” said Bryan-Millush. “Sometimes it doesn’t take much rain that stormwater will flood the coast, which causes swimming notifications or elevated bacteria in the water.”

However, it is more than just seeing the levels of bacteria in the water, if any. The weekly testing goal is to check that levels could lead to water-borne illnesses.

“Oftentimes it is associated with things that can make you sick,” Bryan-Millush said. “Examples of that would be salmonella, hepatitis, cryptosporidium just to name a few.”

The department wants people to be aware and pay attention to signs where testing takes place.