Frequently Asked Questions
What does Wake County sample recreational waters for?
Pursuant to EPA recommendations, Wake County adopted new Regulations Governing Public Recreational Waters and Beaches in 2015, to protect swimmers and others who may come into contact with the fresh water by informing the public of bacteria levels. These regulations establish levels of indicator bacteria, E. coli and Enterococci.
What is the cause of high bacteria results?
Wake County does not test to determine the source of bacteria. Water bodies may be impacted by varying sources of fecal pollution: human and animals (both domestic and wildlife).
Generally, Enterococci and E. coliform are both found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. These bacteria are plentiful in feces of humans and animals and indicate presence of feces, which may contain pathogens capable of causing human illness.
Many lakes have substantial goose populations in the area in addition to other warm-blooded animal populations. Septic tanks in need of maintenance or repair may also contribute to increased bacteria. Highly urbanized areas generate more stormwater than undeveloped areas and can also impact downstream lakes and water bodies.
What recreational swimming areas does Wake County sample?
Wake County Environmental Services samples the following recreational waters for bacteria:
- Harris Lake
- Lake Wheeler
- Falls Lake (including Beaverdam, Sandling, Holly Point beaches)
- Camp Kanata
- New Life Camp
- Umstead Park (Camp Crabtree and Camp Lapihio)
Why does Wake County not sample Rolling View beach?
Wake County only samples recreational waters within Wake County's jurisdiction. Rolling View Beach is located in Durham County.
What are the water quality standards for E. coliform and Enterococci?
E. coliform: No single sample shall exceed 235 colonies per 100 ml.
Enterococci: No single sample shall exceed 70 colonies per 100 ml.
How often does Wake County sample?
Wake County samples all swimming beaches weekly from May through September. In addition, ambient samples are taken at Falls Lake and Harris Lake every other week. Generally, samples are taken on Mondays and Tuesdays.
When does Wake County order the temporary closure of recreational waters to swimming and other primary contact?
Wake County's health director has the authority to order closure of the water contact area when a public health nuisance exists. Reopening of closed areas will be approved when the nuisance is abated.
How does a person become ill from contaminated water?
The main route of exposure to illness-causing organisms in recreational water is through direct contact with polluted water while swimming, most commonly through accidental ingestion.
What are the symptoms of illness from contact with contaminated water?
Please see the link on the homepage for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for details of symptoms. The most common symptom is an upset stomach from ingesting contaminated water.
What should I do if I am exhibiting symptoms of illness after swimming in a contaminated area?
Should you or your family be experiencing negative health effects you believe may be linked to the ingestion of water containing elevated levels of bacteria, please contact your primary care physician.
The general number for Community Health, Communicable Disease, is 919-250-4462. This is not a clinic and cannot diagnose illnesses.
My family is planning to swim at a local lake; what should I know before we go?
Please contact the individual beach prior to your outing to ensure that the swimming area is open.
Also note that bacteria naturally occurs in all water sources. Families should refrain from drinking or swallowing water from these sources. It is also a good practice to wash your hands after swimming in natural water bodies.
A person with open wounds does risk infection of the wound if contacted with bacteria.