July 8, 2021 - Beach water samples for all of Hampton's public beaches have met the state's water quality standards.
The Hampton Health Department tests samples of water at several public beach locations throughout the summer season. A swimming advisory is issued for that beach if bacteria exceeds state standards. If an advisory is issued, the department collects new samples and monitors the water until the conditions return to safe levels.
There are five locations in Hampton: Fort Monroe's Outlook Beach; three spots along Buckroe Beach; and Salt Ponds Beach. Buckroe is segmented, so bacteria levels could affect the entire area, or just a portion (the south, from the pier to Point Comfort Avenue; middle, from Point Comfort to Tappan avenues; or north, from Tappan to Pilot avenues.)
An advisory doesn’t close the water to swimmers — it just warns you that you face an elevated risk for gastrointestinal illness. The risk is especially elevated for children, who are more likely to swallow the water, or those who have open wounds or weakened immune systems.
Water samples are sent to labs to detect Enterococci in saltwater. While these organisms themselves do not cause illness, their presence is an indicator that there is fecal contamination and other harder-to-detect bacteria are present. The Environmental Protection Agency standard is the point at which people show a greater incidence of illness.
Signs are posted at the beach if there is an active advisory. When the city is notified of contaminated water, officials begin looking for a cause. Most commonly, bacteria levels can increase after a major storm, when sewer or wastewater systems could become overwhelmed and overflow. Bacteria also could be caused by a leak in one of the systems.
If an advisory is issued, officials will continue to test the water, and the public will be notified when the advisory is lifted.
Heading to a public beach elsewhere in Virginia? Check here.