On the Water

Swim Guide alerts inform the public where it’s safe to swim from Memorial Day to Labor Day, giving kayakers confidence in the health of local waterways.

Eighteen sites in the Tar-Pamlico watershed were classified as safe last week in the first round of testing of Sound Rivers’ annual Swim Guide program.

The nonprofit group that promotes river and sound conservation tested for the bacteria E. coli at sites popular with people who boat, paddle, swim and fish on the waterway. All sites on the Tar were at safe levels, while four sites on the upper Neuse were not.

Swim Guide is an international water-quality program conducted locally by Sound Rivers. Now in its fourth year, tests are conducted weekly through Labor Day with results posted every Friday on an interactive map at soundrivers.org/swimguide. Safe sites are marked green, while unsafe sites are marked red.

Residents also may sign up for weekly text alerts by texting “SWIM” to 33222. For results in Spanish, text “NADAR” to 33222.

“For those contemplating getting out on the water, it gives them confidence to participate in swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle-boarding and all other forms of recreation — and it may even inform them of places to recreate they didn’t know existed,” said Clay Barber, Sound Rivers’ environmental projects coordinator.

This year, 46 popular recreation sites along the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins will be sampled weekly by a slew of volunteers. Samples will be tested for the presence of E. coli, which can cause an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections for both humans and their pets. Sites will be given a pass/fail designation based on results that meet or exceed federal and state water-quality standards.


“Summertime is a super-popular, water-based recreation season. People are out on the water, and we want to keep them informed about possible dangers, as well as help them plan the safest outing they can have,” Barber said.

The testing sites are located all the river basins, from the Raleigh-Durham area to the Pamlico Sound. Samples collected are tested by Sound Rivers’ staff. Boaters, swimmers and their pets should avoid the water or practice caution at sites markets as unsafe, Sound Rivers reported.

Eighteen of the 46 Swim Guide sampling sites are located in the Tar-Pamlico River basin: at Rocky Mount — Tar River Reservoir and Battle Park; at River Road near Tarboro; at Greenville — Town Common, Wildwood Park, Port Terminal and Yankee Hall; at Washington — Mason’s Landing, Washington waterfront, Haven’s Garden Boat Ramp, Chocowinity Bay at Cypress Landing, Swan Point, Broad Creek at Pamlico Plantation, Blounts Bay and Blounts Creek at Cotton Patch Landing; at Bath — Bonner Point and the Quarterdeck; and Belhaven — Pungo River at Woodstock Point.

Based in Raleigh, New Bern and Washington, Sound Rivers is celebrating 40 years of monitoring and protecting the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico Rivers’ watersheds that cover nearly a quarter of North Carolina. Its mission to preserve the health and beauty of the river basin through environmental justice.

Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide program is sponsored by Grady-White Boats, the Water-Quality Monitoring Fund in memory of Gene Pate, UNC-Lenoir Healthcare, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, Melinda Vann and David Silberstein and other donors.

For more information, visit soundrivers.org.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.