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State to stop water quality testing at 41 sites

By Patrick Gannon
pgannon@ncinsider.com

The state is suspending water quality testing at 41 sites along sounds and rivers in eastern North Carolina as a result of about $22,000 in federal funding cuts linked to sequestration.

The state water quality program regularly samples 240 sites in coastal waters, most of them on a weekly basis from April through October. It tests for certain types of bacteria that can indicate the presence of organisms that cause gastrointestinal problems, skin infections and other symptoms in humans.

But 41 of the sites won’t be monitored during the 2014 swimming season, which starts April 1 and runs through Oct. 31, said Patti Fowler, section chief with the Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section of the Division of Marine Fisheries. Fowler said the sites were chosen because they are among the least-used by swimmers. The division will continue monitoring all of its ocean sites, as well as most of the high-use sound sites in 2014, she said.

A letter about the suspended testing was sent to health directors, camp directors, town managers and other officials in the affected areas: Wilson Bay in Onslow County, the Neuse and Pamlico rivers, Pantego Creek near Belhaven, Swan Quarter Bay in Hyde County, Vandemere Creek in Pamlico County and tributaries of the Albemarle Sound.

If funding is restored, the state will resume sampling of those sites, Fowler said.

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