North Carolina residents should avoid Florence-affected waters, officials say

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the North Carolina Coastal Federation on Thursday issued a strong warning for residents hoping to take a swim: Stay out of ocean and intracoastal waters.

In a statement, the federation said “massive stormwater runoff” from Florence has resulted in “elevated levels” of potentially harmful bacteria. The elevated levels were detected “in and around Wrightsville Beach,” the North Carolina Coastal Federation said in the statement.

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“We recommend the public avoid contact with coastal waters identified on the Recreational Water Quality Program’s website map with precautionary advisories until the state conducts testing to determine waters are safe for recreational use,” the federation continued.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation said coastal swimming waters “contaminated with polluted runoff carry bacteria, parasites and viruses that can cause many types of illnesses from minor to severe infections.”

“These illnesses include bacterial infections, earaches, hepatitis, skin rashes and respiratory issues. Stormwater runoff is a known cause for these illnesses,” the federation continued.

Bacteria-infected water is not uncommon following a tropical storm or hurricane. Shortly before Florence hit, experts warned drinking water could be also be contaminated by the overflow of manure pits, coal ash pits, water treatment plants and other sources.

When manure pits, specifically, become flooded, the sewage can flow into other areas and threaten the public water supply with a variety of bacteria and disease-causing microorganisms, experts said.

“This isn't a scientific secret; once an area is flooded, there are several things that can contaminate the water,” Joel Cline, a meteorologist and tropical storm coordinator with the NOAA, previously told Fox News.

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As for ocean and coastal waters, officials will tell locals when the water is safe again for swimming and other recreational activities, the federation said.