It's Safe to Go Back in the Water*

Updated 1 year ago Sundae Horn

Public health concerns muddied the waters about swimming on Ocracoke.

Pure and clean
Pure and clean
Crystal Canterbury

Actually, it was never not safe to go in the water. 

UPDATE: It's OFFICIAL. See the press release here

If the headlines about N.C. sounds and ocean waters being contaminated because of Hurricane Florence have you worried, our advice is: Keep Calm and Visit Ocracoke. Official word about our certain-to-be-clean water is coming soon. 

"[A North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) water tester] is on the island right now," said county commissioner Tom Pahl at Thursday evening's Civic Affairs meeting. 

Tom and other Hyde County officials were distressed to see the news about water contamination. According to Tom, county manager Kris Noble immediately called DWQ to get some answers. As it turns out, the water at Ocracoke hadn't even been tested. State officials put out the word that Currituck and Dare counties were safe (i.e., bacteria levels are acceptable), but since they didn't have any information about Hyde County/Ocracoke, we're not mentioned in the DWQ press releases. 

Ocracoke is just getting back in business after the hurricane evacuation and the damage to NC 12 at the north end of the island. 

"We know there are problems south of us," Tom said. "But we don't want the information to imply that visitors on their way to Ocracoke should turn around and go home."

A DWQ employee agreed to come down to Ocracoke on Monday, then was persuaded to move that up to Saturday, and then, at Tom's urging, finally agreed to visit right away. ("I told him that the fall season on Ocracoke would totally collapse and that would be on him," Tom said.) The DWQ guy (that's what Tom called him; he didn't share his name) was escorted onto his own, private ferry ride by Chris Bock, head of ferry operations at Hatteras. DWQ guy planned to take samples while Chris waited at South Dock (north end of Ocracoke), then get a private ferry ride back to Hatteras so he could drive straight to his mad scientist lab in Manteo to begin the testing.

Tom said that DWQ guy told him, unofficially, that "Ocracoke's water will be fine."

"We don't want to wait for a press release," Tom said. "We need to get the information out quickly." 

Helena Stevens, the executive director of Ocracoke Civic & Business Association reported that she had spoken to Wit Tuttel, the director of VisitNC. "He will help get the message out," she said.

Tom spoke highly of the ferry division for their cooperation in getting DWQ guy to Ocracoke and back. 

As always, the scariest thing in Ocracoke waters isn't the critters, big (sharks) or small (bacteria). It's the rip currents. Lifeguard season is over; if you plan to swim in the ocean, please familiarize yourself with rip current safety. We want all our visitors to be healthy and safe!

It's Safe to Go Back in the Water*



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