State officials say don’t swim in coastal waters impacted by Ian

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WITN) – State recreational water quality officials are telling the public not to swim in North Carolina coastal waters affected by Ian.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says heavy winds and rain have negatively impacted all coastal waters, and waters affected by floodwaters can contain elevated levels of harmful bacteria.

The DEQ says the extra rain has flooded streets, yards, and houses, which has forced beach communities to pump floodwaters into the ocean. These areas, including wet sand where the floodwater is pumped, should be avoided, even if no sign was posted.

“Severe weather events like hurricanes and tropical storms bring excessive amounts of rain, storm surge and cause extreme flooding. These conditions increase levels of harmful bacteria in our coastal waters that can cause illness,” Erin Bryan-Millush, N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program manager said. “The sources of bacteria can vary and include failing septic systems, sewer line breaks, overflowing manholes and wildlife.”

The department says storm impacts increase the chance that contamination is present, thus increasing the risk of adverse health effects from swimming in the waters.

“Residents and visitors should avoid swimming in these waters until bacteriological testing indicates sample results within the state’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s standards,” the DEQ says. “Testing will begin as soon as conditions are safe to do so and areas are accessible. The advisory will be lifted in part or in whole as test results become available.”

WITN is told that since the impacts are widespread, it is not possible to post signs in all areas.

More information on the North Carolina Recreational Water Quality Program can be found here.

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