Rising tides increase fecal bacteria in coastal waters, study finds

High tide events now bring more than just seawater to North Carolina's beaches; they also raise the risk of fecal contamination in coastal waters.

Liz McLaughlin reports for WRAL.


In short:

  • NC State's latest study links sunny day flooding—clear day tidal overflows—to increased fecal bacteria in water.
  • Lead researcher Megan Carr highlights growing frequency of these floods due to environmental changes.
  • Despite contamination spikes during high tides, these high bacteria levels tend to be temporary.

Key quote:

"What we know from our study is the floodwaters are fecally contaminated. During high tides, we have floods which move through underground infrastructure, such as stormwater networks."

— Megan Carr, Ph.D. student at NC State

Why this matters:

Fecal contamination can lead to significant health risks such as gastrointestinal illnesses and infections. Residents and visitors coming into contact with these waters might face conditions ranging from minor skin rashes to serious diseases like hepatitis.For the local flora and fauna, the stakes are similarly high. Ecosystems that rely on clean water are disrupted, often with long-lasting effects on marine and coastal biodiversity.

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