June 21, 2023– The Health Department has issued a swimming advisory for the beach at Fort Monroe due to bacteria levels that exceed the state water quality standards for swimming. Water samples from Hampton's other beaches meet the state standard.
An advisory doesn’t close the water to swimmers — it just warns you that you face elevated risk. 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 salt water. 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. Environmental Protection Agency standard that sets the unacceptable level at the point where people show a greater incidence of illness.
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 Buckroe avenues; or north, from Buckroe to Pilot avenues.)
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 have overflows. Bacteria also could be caused by a leak in one of the systems.
Officials will continue to test the water and the public will be notified when the advisory is lifted.
For more information on testing at beaches, see here.