Colington sound-side beach closed to swimming due to bacteria levels

Soundfront Park [Photo courtesy Colington Harbour Association]

An advisory against swimming was posted Tuesday at Colington Harbour’s swimming beach on the sound, where state officials found bacteria levels in the water that exceed the state’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s recreational water quality standards.

The advisory affects Colington Harbour swimming beach at the end of Colington Drive in Kill Devil Hills. Tests of water samples taken at the site May 6 indicate bacteria levels that exceed the state and federal action levels of 104 enterococci per 100 milliliters for Tier 1 high-usage sites, North Carolina Environmental Quality said in a news release. Swimming areas are classified based on recreational use and are referred to as tiers.

The N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program tests water quality at ocean and sound beaches in accordance with federal and state laws. Enterococci, the bacteria group used for testing, is found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, the DEQ said.

While it does not cause illness, scientific studies show that enterococci may indicate the presence of other disease-causing organisms. People swimming or playing in waters with bacteria levels higher than the action level have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness or skin infections.

This advisory is not a beach closing, nor does the advisory affect the entire Kill Devil Hills area. Swimming advisories affect water within 200 feet of the sign. The sign posted reads as follows:

“ATTENTION
SWIMMING IN THIS AREA IS NOT RECOMMENDED. BACTERIA TESTING INDICATES
LEVELS OF CONTAMINATION THAT MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR
HEALTH. THIS ADVISORY AFFECTS WATERS WITHIN 200’ OF THIS SIGN.
OFFICE OF THE STATE HEALTH DIRECTOR”

State officials will continue testing the site, and they will remove the sign and notify the public again when the bacteria levels decrease to levels below the standards.

State recreational water quality officials sample 209 sites throughout the coastal region, most of them on a weekly basis, from April to October. Testing continues on a reduced schedule during the rest of the year, when the waters are colder.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.