Water Quality Specialist: Slocum Creek bacteria 24x EPA standard

Algal Blooms, Fish Kills, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Water Quality

Posted on June 27th, 2024

Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register takes a dissolved reading on Slocum Creek.

Sound Rivers Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register and intern Katrina Borgen went by kayak to investigate just how bad bacteria is in Slocum Creek this week.

Turns out, it’s very bad.

“With how bad our Swim Guide site in Slocum Creek has been looking this season, we wanted to get out there to collect some additional samples upstream from the source of the contamination, Wolf Pit Branch, to try and get a better idea of what’s going on,” Taylor said. “We found that the boat ramp was still failing and pretty high in terms of bacteria, but the levels of enterococci bacteria inside of Wolf Pit Branch was about 24 times higher than the EPA’s standard. All of that contaminated water is flowing downstream, causing those high numbers at our Swim Guide site.”

Intern Kat Borgen (left) and Water Quality Taylor Register went by kayak to collect water samples at Wolf Pit Branch.

They also noticed that there was a small fish kill — about 20 dead fish floating on the surface — downstream of Wolf Pit Branch.

“Surprisingly, this is the first fish kill I’ve seen out in Slocum Creek,” Taylor said. “The dissolved oxygen levels in the creek were also extremely low, so we’re thinking that the combination of dry and low-flow conditions, extreme heat and high levels of bacteria are causing a lot of stress on the aquatic life in the creek, which is a really unfortunate situation.”   

Taylor takes a water sample for DNA testing.

The pollution problem on Slocum Creek is ongoing. In 2023, consistent Swim Guide failures at the Slocum Creek site (meaning bacteria levels greater than recreational water-quality standards) alerted Sound Rivers staff to a larger problem. Partnering with the City of Havelock, the city ruled out problems with its sewage infrastructure, so Taylor, Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop and Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman got on the water and got sampling and narrowed down the source of the pollution to a small Slocum Creek tributary, Wolf Pit Branch. No sewage infrastructure is located in the Wolf Pit Branch watershed; septic tanks, however, are. As failing septic systems appear to the source, Sound Rivers is now working with the Craven County Health Department to alert residents about the issue and what they can do to take part in the effort to stop the pollution of the creek.

A dead fish, one of about 20 and part of what Taylor called a “small fish kill” on Slocum Creek.

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