Riverkeepers, specialist collect samples by kayak

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Water Quality

Posted on November 9th, 2023

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman paddles the cypress swamp of Slocum Creek, searching for a pollution source.

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman, Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop and Sound Rivers Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register headed out on Slocum Creek this week, to hunt down the source of ongoing pollution in the Havelock waterway.

The issue was discovered through Swim Guide water sampling: the public access on Slocum Creek failed to meet recreational water-quality standards 88% of weekly testing all summer long, at times having such high levels of bacteria that samples exceeded the highest numbers on testing charts. The ongoing investigation has yielded a partnership with town officials to identify the source of pollution, which, DNA testing revealed, is human. On Thursday, the Sound Rivers team continued the search for the source by kayak.

“We figured our next step in source tracking the ongoing bacteria issues in Slocum Creek would be to paddle up the southwest prong to collect samples, which we’ve been trying to find time to do for a while now. Sam, Katey and I were finally able to get out there today, and I have to say I’m very excited to finally get some results from a large section of the creek that we’ve previously been unable to access,” Taylor said. “We know that the bacteria has to originate directly upstream of the boat ramp, as our farthest upstream sampling consistently comes back on the low side. We identified a small tributary in between those two locations that we think may be the culprit, but we knew we’d have to paddle it in order to collect samples to support this. We don’t have our bacteria results back yet, but I will say the water in that tributary was a concerning color, and the other physical data we collected didn’t look too promising.”

The paddling trip wasn’t all questionable water, however.

“Slocum Creek was surprisingly devoid of any trash, and we saw tons of wildlife and fall foliage throughout this blackwater cypress swamp,” Taylor said. “Slocum Creek truly is a hidden gem in our watershed, which is why we’ve been working so hard to investigate and advocate for it. We want the community to be able to safely recreate and enjoy everything Slocum Creek has to offer!”

Hidden gem: the blackwater cypress swamp was surprisingly devoid of trash, and had plenty of wildlife.

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