North Carolina 2013 Beach Water Quality Summary
The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act helps states and local governments develop monitoring programs to protect public health. Through these programs local officials test beach water for bacteria and issue closings or advisories when bacteria levels exceed a certain threshold. The EPA recently issued a new Beach Action Value (BAV), which is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories. The EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions." While the use of the BAV is currently optional, the EPA's proposed National Beach Guidance and Required Performance Criteria for Grants would require states receiving BEACH Act funding to use the BAV to trigger beach notifications. In light of this information, in assessing 2013 beach water quality NRDC has chosen to use the BAV in order to best protect beachgoers from water quality health risks.
Most of North Carolina's 240 public coastal beaches, which stretch along 320 miles of Atlantic waters, are located on barrier islands. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) administers the state's BEACH Act grant. North Carolina's swim season runs from April 1 to October 31. Monitoring occurs year-round but is less frequent during the off-season, and alerts and advisories are not issued during the off-season. Monitoring is conducted in the off-season so that bacteriological problems can be found and corrected before the swim season begins. Beachgoers can learn about beach advisories in North Carolina on the NCDENR website.
What Does Beach Water Monitoring Show?
In 2013, North Carolina reported 240 coastal beaches, all of which were monitored. Of all reported beach monitoring samples, 4% exceeded the Beach Action Value (BAV) of 60 enterococcus bacteria colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml marine or estuarine water in a single sample. NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis. This includes duplicate samples and reported samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.
The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the BAV in North Carolina in 2013 were Waterway Park in Brunswick County (40%); Swanquarter Bay, end of docks on SR 1136 in Hyde County (38%); Dutchman Creek Park on Fish Factory Road near Southport in Brunswick County (35%); Fort Fisher, beach adjacent to NCWRC ramp in New Hanover County (32%); and New River, Wilson Park in Onslow County (30%).
North Carolina Water Quality Trend 2009–2013
The bar chart below illustrates the general trend of beach water quality exceedance rates in North Carolina over the past five years. Note that only samples from a common set of beaches monitored each year from 2009 to 2013 are included in the bar chart. Percent exceedance rates in 2009-2012 are based on the national single-sample maximum standard for designated beach areas of 104 enterococcus bacteria cfu/100 ml water that was in place during those years. For comparison purposes, exceedance rates for 2013 are shown based on the historical national standard of 104 enterococcus bacteria cfu/100 ml water as well as the EPA's new Beach Action Value of 60 enterococcus bacteria cfu/100 ml water.
Percent of Samples Exceeding Daily Bacterial Maximum for Beaches Reported 2009-2013
- % exceedance of national standard in place 2009-2012
- % exceedance of national BAV safety threshold
* Please note exceedance rates for 2013 are shown based on the new BAV safety threshold and the historical national standard for comparison purposes. Additionally, only samples from a common set of beaches monitored each year from 2009-2013 are included in the bar chart.
North Carolina 2013 Monitoring Results