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Is it true that after a big rain people should avoid Carolina Beach due to runoff from the Cape Fear River?

Gareth McGrath

This is false but may be rooted in the truth. While it’s correct that rain may cause some problems on beaches, the ocean waters themselves are usually not affected and the Cape Fear River has nothing to do with it.

Anytime we have heavy rains, a certain amount of polluted stormwater will reach all of our surface waters. Generally, the runoff contains things like fertilizers and animal waste from lawns, and oil and other residue from driveways and other paved surfaces.

Normally, the contaminants aren’t concentrated enough to warrant any warnings from state health regulators. But we do have several beach “hotspots” that generally should be avoided after heavy rainfalls. They include Banks Channel in Wrightsville Beach south of Causeway Drive and beach areas in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach immediately adjacent to open stormwater outfalls. In both cases, pipes carrying stormwater from nearby roads and parking lots dump right out onto the beach, leaving little chance for the contaminants to be filtered out. In Wrightsville Beach the water flows into Banks Channel, while on Pleasure Island it often forms small pools that, while alluring to small children to play in, should be avoided.

State health officials have posted permanent signs near some of the stormwater pipes warning that they should be avoided if discharging.

Temporary swimming advisories also are issued in cases where water samples show bacterial levels above federal and state standards for safe human contact with the water.

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One Response to “ Is it true that after a big rain people should avoid Carolina Beach due to runoff from the Cape Fear River?”

  1. On June 5, 2009 at 8:55 am Dave Carnell wrote:

    One of the reasons the Ethyl-Dow bromine plant was located where it was in 1933 was that the Cape Fear River flowed soutward away from the area so that they would not be retreating sea water from which they had already extracted the bromine.

    It is a completely fraudulent myth that a German sub shelled the plant in 1943.

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