Bacteria levels are again high in three New Hanover County creeks due to human fecal contamination.
Brad Rosov, marine biologist of Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc., said four sites, located at Motts, Pages and Smith creeks, showed chronic high levels of enterococcus bacteria during an annual water quality monitoring update at the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Monday, Aug. 19, meeting.
“Should it be coming from human sources, there is more of a risk for pathogenic exchange to humans, so it could become a human health risk,” Rosov said, before announcing the research results.
From 24 samples collected, 88 percent of the samples showed strongly positive results for two of three human fecal contamination markers.
Further research showed bacteria is coming from human sources, but additional research is needed to find the bacteria source, such as a leaky sewer or septic tank.
Futch and Pages creeks, the only two of seven creeks tested for fecal coliform, showed poor results, exceeding the North Carolina standard more than 25 percent of sampling times.
Carolina Beach Boardwalk
During the first agenda action item, commissioners unanimously approved, 3-0, to appropriate $499,000 from the fund balance through a grant to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
County manager Chris Coudriet recommended denying the request and suggested two funding alternatives.
Chairman Woody White said he did not see the boardwalk project as an economic development investment, but supported the project based on the Carolina Beach partnership. In the future, he said he would like to use a funding model using more Room Occupancy Tax funds, shifting the burden from taxpayers to the people using the amenities.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.55 million, with a groundbreaking taking place as early as September 2013.
“I think it benefits all of the county citizens as a whole,” White said.
Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis unsuccessfully requested funds from a county park grant to fund the boardwalk project in April 2013.
The project will extend the 800-foot boardwalk north by 800 feet during two phases. The finished project will include wider walkways, a covered area for seniors, swings and a children’s park.
“We think this could be the family focus,” Lewis said. “This could be our destination.”
Bruce Shell, interim Carolina Beach town manager and former county manager, promised a return on investment, totaling nearly $700,000 through 2018.
The grant was originally referred to as a loan in the request.
Coudriet listed several reasons to oppose the funding in a July 12 memo, writing it would be paid back with property tax revenue, not principal on the loan. Coudriet argued those revenues would be available without the loan, and that loan approval would set a precedent and decrease the county’s unassigned fund balance.
Commissioners could have instead advanced the money, while Carolina Beach acquired a bank loan, like approved earlier in 2013 for a car rental facility with the Airport Authority.
Commissioner Thomas Wolfe was absent from the meeting due to a family medical emergency.
As requested by vice chairwoman Beth Dawson, Carolina Beach officials will come back on an annual basis to keep the commissioners included in the boardwalk process.