Friday, June 28, 2013
Water along beaches in Georgetown County is cleaner than many other beaches in South Carolina, according to a study released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The study — "Testing the Waters: 2013 A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches" — ranked South Carolina 26 out of 30 states for beach water quality.
There are 63 beaches in South Carolina lining 180 miles of Atlantic coastline, the report states. South Carolina's beach water quality monitoring program is administered by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
According to the report, the percentage of samples exceeding state standards in DeBordieu Beach, Litchfield Beach and Huntington Beach State Park were 0%, and Pawleys Island was 4%. Garden City Beach, which lies in both Georgetown and Horry counties, was 5%.
NRDC attorney Jon Devine said the national average for exceedence rates is 7% over the national standard which specifies the acceptable amount of bacteria in beach water.
“It is good to have numbers coming up that meet standards,” Devine said, referring to the Georgetown County percentages.
The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the daily maximum standard in 2012 were in Horry County: Myrtle Beach State Park (20%), Surfside Beach (19%), Myrtle Beach (17%), and North Myrtle Beach (11%).
Horry County had the highest exceedance rate of the daily maximum standard in 2012 (15%), followed by Beaufort County (6%), Colleton County (2%), and Georgetown County (1%). No samples taken at beaches in Charleston County exceeded the standard.
Calculating exceedance rates
According to the report, the NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis.
This includes duplicate samples and samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.
The beach water quality monitoring program has the authority to issue advisories but not closings; in South Carolina, only elected officials can close a beach.
The advisory remains in place until samples show bacteria levels below the state standard. Advisories include the area of the beach that is within 200 feet on either side of the monitoring station where the exceedance occurred. Advisories are posted via signs at the beach, online, and through a Twitter feed.
According to the NRDC, some local communities have constructed stormwater outfalls that discharge further out in the ocean instead of at the coast in order to limit beach erosion and reduce localized pollution concentrations for swimmers.
These projects have created significant reductions in the amount of fecal indicator bacteria found in beach water where they have been implemented, the report states.
“Protecting swimmers from bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in beach water requires leadership,” the report states.
“Federal officials must help clean up polluted stormwater runoff — the most commonly identified cause of beach closings and swimming advisories — by developing national rules that require pollution sources to prevent stormwater where it starts by retaining it on-site.
“The Environmental Protection Agency must also set beach water quality standards protective of human health and provide states with the support they need to monitor beach pollution and notify the public when pollution levels are high.”
“Several beaches in South Carolina need to improve their water quality,” Devine said.
“We think a lot of the work needs to be done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Safe to Swim Standards developed by the EPA are not strong enough and the EPA needs to do a better job to reform the requirements for stormwater coming off roadways and parking lots, which carries pollution into the waterways and the ocean.”
He said that more developed areas have more pollution since rain water picks up wildlife and pet waste, and human waste from septic tanks and sewer systems on its way to the ocean.
For more information about the results of the NRDC report click here