Precautionary public health advisory issued for Buxton beach

Published 11:29 am Monday, October 2, 2023

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The Dare County Department of Health & Human Services, in conjunction with North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, issued a precautionary advisory due to impacts from petroleum contaminated soils likely exposed by recent beach erosion near the former United States Coast Guard Group Cape Hatteras station area in Buxton at Cape Hatteras National Seashore from approximately 46285 Old Lighthouse Road to and including the first jetty.

According to the news release issued by DCDHHS, historic military activity occurred in this area during the 1950s and through parts of the 1980s and samples were taken by the U.S Coast Guard after rangers with Cape Hatteras National Seashore noticed a strong smell of fuel. The testing of the samples indicated the soil contained weathered light fuel oil, a small amount of lubricating oil, petroleum hydrocarbons, and non-petroleum contamination

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard have been actively studying and remediating historic petroleum contamination at the site.

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“We are aware of the situation along the shorelines of Buxton, N.C., and our technical team has made this a priority as they look into the matter,” stated Cheri Pritchard with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The Department of Defense (DoD) is committed to protecting human health and the environment and improving public safety by cleaning up environmental contamination of former military properties. If it is determined the petroleum contaminated soil is related to a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does respond to DoD generated contamination that occurred before the property was transferred to private owners or to federal, state, tribal or local government entities.

“Active communication, coordination, consultation and collaboration with those entities is critical in planning and carrying out cleanups,” Pritchard continued. “The Corps works hard to keep all interested parties informed and offers opportunities for dialogue throughout the cleanup phases.”

Until the petroleum contaminated soils are mitigated, and the area is declared safe, environmental and public health officials recommend people:

  • Avoid swimming, wading or fishing in this area in Buxton at Cape Hatteras National Seashore from approximately 46285 Old Lighthouse Road to and including the first jetty until further notice.
  • If skin comes in contact with contaminated sediment or water, thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water.

In addition to the potential health risks related to petroleum contamination, there are a number of remnants of previous U.S. Coast Guard and naval installations, including concrete bunkers and steel infrastructure that may  pose hazards to swimmers, surfers and beach goers, noted the release.

Additionally, for those who live in or near the impacted area and have a private drinking well, it is recommended to have the well water sampled to ensure it does not contain contaminants. If the well is a drinking water well, contact the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services at 252-475-5088 to schedule sampling.

Those who notice any plumes, sheens or fish kills in this area should avoid coming into contact with these waters and report the conditions by calling 800-424-8802.

For general information about the Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS), contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, at 912-652-5673.