UPDATE: Swimming advisory for Colington sound-side beach lifted after further tests

Soundfront Park [Photo courtesy Colington Harbour Association]

State recreational water quality officials on Wednesday lifted a water quality swimming advisory for Colington Harbour’s swimming beach along Albemarle Sound, one day after officials found bacteria levels that were above safe swimming limits.

The advisory was posted after samples taken at the site on May 6 indicate bacteria levels that exceeded 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 bacteria levels at the site are now below the state and federal EPA recreational water quality standards, and the sign advising against swimming or otherwise coming into contact with the water has been removed.

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.

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.

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Kari Pugh is digital director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at kpugh@jammediallc.com