This season has been the summer of swim advisories for Cape Charles Beach. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) conducts weekly water sample testing along Cape Charles beach as part of the annual summer beach monitoring and swimming advisory process. When the test samples show a bacteria content level above 104, VHD issues a swimming advisory.
This year, advisories were issued on three occasions this summer (May 30-31; June 12-13; and August 1-2). Per the VDH, the water sample taken on July 31, prior to the August 1-2 advisory, showed a “human signature” present in the bacteria content. This human signature was identified on August 14, 2018 as HF183 and was present in sufficient quantity to constitute a significant positive. The Town received information on this test result in an email dated August 17, 2018.
According to the VDH website “The HF183 molecular marker is associated with recent human fecal contamination. HF183 is the most frequently recommended and used human-associated fecal contamination marker to identify human sewage pollution in surface waters.”
Most recent VDH test results show the level at 6 for the sample taken on August 21, 2018.
While the cause of the human signature in the July 31 sample is not identified in the testing, a number of sources are possible. These include raw sewage discharge from commercial and\or recreational vessels near the test site, run-off from failing septic systems, and stormwater discharge contaminated by a compromised connection to the sanitary sewage collection system. To
determine if the public wastewater collection and treatment system is contributing to these swim advisories, the Town plans on doing television monitoring of the system in the near future.
Please follow www.capecharles.org for updates on that testing process.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Interim Town Manager Larry DiRe at 757-331-3259.
To promote public health and safety, VDH developed the following steps to protect your health while swimming:
• Observe Swimming Advisories; do not enter the water at a beach under a swimming advisory.
• Avoid swallowing water when swimming; natural waters may contain disease-causing organisms that can cause gastrointestinal illness if swallowed.
• Avoid swimming for a few days after heavy rainfall; bacteria levels are likely to be high and disease-causing organisms are more likely to be present after rainfall due to pollution from land runoff and other sources.
• Prevent direct contact of cuts and open wounds with recreational water; natural waters may contain disease-causing organisms that may cause skin infections.
• Avoid swimming in areas where dead fish are present; dead fish may indicate that water conditions are poor or
hazardous materials are in the water. Please contact the Department of Environmental Quality (703-583-3800) if you
observe a fish kill.
• Don’t swim if you are ill or have a weakened immune system; some organisms are opportunistic and may only cause
illness when you are already ill or your immune system is weakened.
• Shower with soap after swimming; showering helps remove potential disease-causing organisms.
• Swim away from fishing piers, pipes, drains, and water flowing from storm drains onto a beach.
• Do not dispose of trash, pet waste, or dirty diapers on the beach.