MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The City of Myrtle Beach has recently invested nearly $300,000 for a filter system to help clean the storm water in the area around the new boardwalk. It is yet another measure the city is taking to improve water quality in the storm water system.
"Storm water management control really has been the city's top priority," City spokesman Mark Kruea said. "We've made tremendous strides on storm water management and have spent tens of millions of dollars throughout the city to solve both flooding issues and water quality issues."
Because storm water drains can become filled with cups, bags, cigarette butts and other pollutants, the city has been installing filters to help sift out the trash before it ends up in the ocean outfalls.
"The overall goal of the treatment facilities themselves is to slow the water down and to allow the debris to settle," Storm Water Manager Janet Wood explained. "And [to have] the floatables to come to the top and to trap them in the area."
While a number of box filters are already in place in Myrtle Beach, a new type of tubular filter has been installed near the boardwalk.
Wood says as the technology becomes available and as the engineers design these best management practices and water treatment devices, they try to install the most innovative filters available.
Kruea says along with the filter boxes, the city has also installed a $3.6 million lateral storm water collection system in the area.
"We had to put it in place to put the boardwalk on top of it or else we'd be tearing up the boardwalk that we had just built" Kruea said. "And that's not a good plan."
For now though, the filters sit unused except for whatever may fall down into the drain.
"What we would like to see is to eventually be able to tie it into the road system and to start implementing that water quality vault," Wood noted.
Before that can happen, Kruea says the project needs permitting and an estimated $10 million outfall pipe has to be installed that will carry the water out into the ocean rather than right onto the beach. Other similar deep water ocean outfalls are already in place on 25th Avenue South, 14th Avenue North, and 52nd Avenue North. The new one would be located at Fourth Avenue North.
Kruea says money used to fund these projects in the past has come from a variety of sources, including state revolving loan funds at low interest rates, congressional grants, state grants and money from bonds approved by voters through a referendum.
The city is hopeful they will see money come in from the federal level to fund the Fourth Avenue outfall.
"We have a $16 million congressional authorization, but it hasn't turned into an appropriation yet," Kruea said. "It becomes an appropriation then it's real money."
"Things take time but we see the overall goal and it's a positive thing," Wood said.
"These are good first steps," emphasized Dr. Susan Libes with the Coastal Carolina University Center for Marine and Wetland Studies. "[However] I think everybody acknowledges its not the end all and the be all."
Libes says it is also important to understand more about exactly what is happening at the discharge point where water is expelled out into the ocean including how the outfalls affect oxygen levels in the water.
Libes also says public education is needed to decrease the amount of pollutants that are getting into the storm water system in the first place.
Wood says the storm sewer system receives no chemical treatment and that is why its so important that the city works to have the cleanest filtered water possible.