UPDATE Sept. 28, 2018- State officials say bateria levels at most ocean swimming sites in Carteret, Pender and Onslow counties meet state and Environmental Protection Agency standards for swimming and other contact with water. A press release from the North Carolian Division of Marine Fisheries said an advisory remains in effect for the public beach access just west of the junction of Coast Guard Road and Inlet Drive in Emerald Isle and for sound-side waters. In addition, a swimming alert remains in effect for ocean beaches and sound-side waters along Hyde, New Hanover and Brunswick Counties.
State officials and the North Carolina Coastal Federation are warning residents and tourists that it’s not yet safe to swim in coastal waters.
"Not only are people swimming in the ocean and the sounds, we're seeing kids playing in the runoff and stormwater, and that is a health hazard," said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Fedearation. "Even though the State has issued some precautionary advisories telling people not to swim, we don't think that message has really gotten through."
Up to 30 inches of rain fell during Hurricane Florence causing flooding and runoff from coastal communities to drain into nearby bodies of water like Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Coastal swimming areas are now contaminated with pathogens that can cause infections, earaches, rashes and respiratory issues, Miller said.
“In this storm event, we have sewage failures we also have septic tanks underwater. We know it’s a nasty brew of contaminants including not only bacteria but viruses. People can get strep infections from getting in contaminated water.”
Miller said the state water quality testing laboratories were damaged during Florence and haven’t been able to analyze water samples since. He said it could take weeks before coastal waters are safe for people to swim and for shellfish waters to open again.