Florence runoff taints area waters, experts warn to stay out

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Waters off much of the North Carolina coast are no longer safe for swimming or even wading due to Hurricane Florence runoff, according to a warning posted by the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

“We need to be loud and clear that swimming in coastal waters is currently a threat to public health, safety and welfare,” stated Todd Miller, executive director of the federation.

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North Carolina Coastal Federation said on Wednesday massive amounts of polluted runoff are still flowing into coastal waterways all along areas of our coast impacted by heavy rains from Hurricane Florence. Groundwater levels are at record highs as a result of up to 30 inches of rainfall that occurred. Experts say this runoff has high levels of bacteria and other pollutants.

If you go in, you could risk “severe” illness, including “bacterial infections, earaches, hepatitis, skin rashes and respiratory issues,” said the release.

Results from water sample collected show elevated levels of bacteria in ocean and intracoastal waters in and around Wrightsville Beach, the NC Coastal Federation said Thursday.

A spokeswoman from the Division of Marine Fisheries says waters in all coastal counties, except Dare and Currituck, remain under advisory. Experts say residents and visitors, including fishermen, who cannot avoid contacting these waters should exercise caution, limit wound exposure, and thoroughly wash their hands.

Staff are collecting water samples from the ocean side of Bogue Banks and Topsail Island Thursday. Depending on test results, the advisory for these waters could be lifted as early as Friday.

Crews will be also taking samples from beaches from Fort Fisher to Wrightsville Beach Friday. Depending on bacteria test results, the advisory may be lifted as early as Saturday.

All shellfishing waters in areas impacted by the hurricane are also closed and will not be reopened for harvest until the state tests the waters and finds that they are safe.

Recreational Water Quality Program has a live map noting sites for water quality advisories.