Wake County Environmental Services will begin testing the water in recreational beach areas as summer outdoor activity increases. During the summer season (late May–Labor Day weekend) Wake County samples fresh waterbodies at public beaches and some private camps for E. coli and Enterococci bacteria in order to inform swimmers and others who come in contact with the water regarding bacteria levels in recreational water. These bacteria are plentiful in feces of humans and animals and indicate presence of feces, which may contain pathogens capable of causing human illness.
In 2015, Wake County adopted new regulations for recreational waters based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised Water Quality Criteria and Guidelines. The new criteria reflect the latest scientific knowledge, public comments and external peer review and have served as a push for the County to revise its standards and protocols. Through a stakeholder's process Environmental Services staff evaluated the County's program and developed recommendations to align the program with current EPA guidelines and best management practices.
New Regulation Highlights
- Revised standards based on EPA's most recent guidelines:
- Remove fecal coliform as a standard
- Use latest E. coli and Enterococci standards
- Revise management actions to require the posting of advisories to communicate health risks associated with primary contact water activities:
- Green – No advisory; bacteria is below exceedance thresholds.
- Yellow – Caution; recent test results indicate elevated levels of bacteria; enter water at your own risk. Advisory will remain in place until bacteria levels no longer exceed the standard.
- Red – Closed for public health nuisance; conditions exist for elevated health risks. Body contact with water is not allowed. Beach will remain closed the nuisance is abated.
- Use of pre-emptive advisories, such as “Rain Advisories” to inform public of increased health risks
- Maintain existing authority under State law to close recreational waters and beaches when a public health nuisance exists
- Enhance public education and outreach
To see the status of a recreational waters location:
- Click the icon for that location on the map,
- You can also view detailed data reports for a location,
- Advisories and closings will also be listed in the news section.
CDC: Recreational Water Illnesses
CDC: Prevention: Healthy Swimming
EPA: Recreational Water Quality Criteria