Slocum Creek DNA results in: it’s human

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sanitary Sewer Overflows, Sound Rivers, Water Quality

Posted on July 27th, 2023

Slocum Creek in Havelock, upstream from the site tested weekly through Swim Guide.

DNA results for Slocum Creek water samples came back this week and have identified the source of fecal bacteria in the creek as human.

“We collected a sample in drier conditions to try and get baseline results for what’s in the creek without stormwater runoff influencing our results,” said Sound Rivers’ Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register. “The lab that processes our samples is able to test for a variety of different DNA sources, and we found that only human DNA was detected in Slocum Creek. While we still can’t be certain of the exact source of the fecal pollution we’re seeing, these results do help to narrow it down to human-related causes, such as potential problems with sewage infrastructure or septic tank failures in nearby areas.”

The Slocum Creek boating access area is one of the sites tested weekly for Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide program. Though located upstream on the east prong of Slocum Creek, the site has failed to meet recreational water-quality standards eight of the nine times it has been tested this year.

The Town of Havelock’s ongoing issues led to the state getting involved in the town fixing its sewer infrastructure. A Special Order by Consent agreement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality requires the issues to be resolved by January 2024.

“The Town of Havelock is still struggling to get a handle on sewage pollution in Slocum Creek, a major recreational waterway and the only access to the Neuse River in the area,” said Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop. “While planned upgrades to the city sewer system are underway, city officials are still unable to identify the source of the bacteria contamination that Sound Rivers has documented week in and week out in the southwest prong of Slocum creek. Clearly, there is more work to be done to identify the source of this problem and stem the pollution.”

Sam said she is meeting with the mayor of Havelock, the city manager, assistant city manager and the utilities director to discuss next steps.

Slocum Creek is the only water-access area open to the public in the Havelock area, which is another cause for concern, according to Taylor.

“With this issue, we are not only concerned about the health of our waterways, but also the health of our communities that use and enjoy them. While human DNA does not pose any additional risks, we still urge the public to exercise extreme caution if they are recreating or doing any activities that would cause them to come into contact with the water in Slocum Creek. Exposure to high levels of E. coli is known to cause gastrointestinal illnesses and skin infections, and these conditions can be more severe in children, elderly and immunocompromised individuals.” 

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