Over the past few days, the Neuse Riverkeeper and members/volunteers of the Neuse RIVERKEEPER® Foundation (NRF) have been responding to and monitoring the water quality in the Neuse AND Trent Rivers. As a result of the recent hurricane, there are concerns as to the condition and safety of the waters I these two river systems.
Our monitoring is showing very low levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the waters from the upper Trent River above Pollocksville to the Neuse and in the Neuse River primarily in the area around New Bern downstream below James City and to Black Beacon Point. Further monitoring will continue over the next few weeks.
In addition to low levels of DO, salinity levels are also very low, which would be expected with the large amounts of rainwater that entered the river as a result of the hurricane. Turbidity levels ( a measure of how well light can penetrate the water) have also indicated a lot of particulate matter in the water column. The pH levels (a measure of how acidic or basic the waters are) are fluctuating between high and low levels, also indicating a large influx of pollutants.
Investigation will also continue to discover the source(s) of the pollutants entering the river, which could include all types of influences. Since the Neuse River basin has been in a drought for many months, the application of pollutants has not been washed into the rivers over time, but instead has built up in the soils. With the large amount of rain we received from Hurricane Irene, there has resulted a huge amount of storm water entering the river system, carrying large amounts and high concentrations of pollutants.
Crab fishermen have reported that the crab populations have also suffered. Dead fish of all species have been noted by the NRF and volunteers, as well as concerned citizens throughout the area.
The question of how safe the water is at this time is being raised frequently. It is the RECOMMENDATION of the NRF that contact with the water at this time is minimal, and that if time is spent in contact, showering as soon after the exposure is also recommended. The NRF CANNOT make an official alert to stay out of the water. That has to come from an official agency such as county health departments or the state Division of Water Quality. No alerts have been published to my knowledge at the time of this email.
I am available for interview, questions or even a boat trip on the Neuse and Trent Rivers by contacting me on at the numbers listed below.
Submitted by: Larry Baldwin, Lower Neuse RIVERKEEPER®, Neuse RIVERKEEPER® Foundation, 1307 Country Club Road, New Bern, NC 28562, 252-637-7972