Beaches closed for Memorial Day weekend?

Beaverdam Beach on Falls Lake

May 26, 2010 8:59:21 PM PDT
Three of Wake County's most popular recreational swimming areas could be closed for Memorial Day weekend due to elevated levels of bacteria.Officials closed Sandling Beach and Beaverdam Beach this week after testing revealed levels were more than twice the acceptable level.

Wake County also closed recreational beach areas at Lake Wheeler due to elevated levels of bacteria.

Watershed Manager Kathryn Hobby collects water samples every summer from different parts of Falls Lake and found more than twice the acceptable levels of a bacteria called Enterococcus at both Beaverdam and Sandling.

"Over the last few weeks and months, people have been out walking their pets, we get a good three or four inches of rain like we had this past weekend, all of that washes right into our storm sewers and along with that comes the bacteria," Upper Neuse River keeper Alissa Bierma said. "If you want to go play in this water, you might as well take your kid out, let him pick up some dog poop and then put his hand in his mouth. That's a really scary concept."

However, it's not just dogs.

"The bacteria is found naturally, it's in the intestines of warm blooded animals --in birds, deer, humans," Hobby said.

While tests are out there to figure out exactly which animal the bacteria is coming from, Wake County is not currently conducting those tests.

"Studies are available to do that, there are plenty of researchers, but due to staff constraints and money, that's not in the works right now," Hobby said.

Another concern is Wake County tests the water at its beaches, but Durham County does not.

"We just don't know if there are issues," Bierma said. "It's not that they don't exist, we just flat out don't know if those beaches are safe. Last year, Wake County tested and Wake beaches closed. Durham beaches stayed open, because Durham didn't test to find out what was happening."

Test results from the Wake County beaches could come in as soon as Friday.

Wake County officials say citizens should call their recreational lake facilities to find out if they are open to swimming or visit the Wake County Recreational Waters Web site www.wakegov.com/water/recreationalwaters

Officials also remind beach goers to always wash their hands with soap and water and thoroughly shower after swimming, tubing or skiing in area lakes to reduce chances of contracting a recreational water illness.

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