Report shows Horry County beaches among most polluted in SC

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The latest quality report from the National Resource Defense Council claims there were 20,000 closing and advisory days at America's beaches due to polluted water or threatened contamination.

The 23rd annual beachwater quality report says more than 80 percent of the closings and advisories were caused by bacteria levels above public health standards.

"Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water can spoil a family vacation real fast, turning a day of lounging at the beach into a day at the doctor's office with a sick child," said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine. "It's no surprise that pollution in the waves is bad for business in beach communities. Our government leaders can help support local economies and salvage countless summer getaways nationwide by tackling one of the principal sources of these problems - stormwater runoff."

This report ranks popular beaches on a 5-star scale, highlighting the top 13 "Superstar" beaches and the 11 "repeat offenders," known to exhibit high bacteria counts.

On the South Carolina level, the NRDC report states more than half of the Palmetto State beaches are not monitored at all. Only 13 percent of those that are monitored did not exceed state standards in 2012.

The sources of beachwater contamination in South Carolina are unknown contaminates (64 percent) and stormwater runoff (27 percent).

Among Grand Strand beaches, Huntington Beach State Park ranked highest with a 3-star rating. Myrtle Beach was given two out of five stars.

North Myrtle Beach, Arcadia Beach, Myrtle Beach State Park and Campgrounds and Surfside Beach all received one star.

But water quality is no new issue for North Myrtle Beach. Over the past 10 years the city says it's spent $20 million to remove the unsightly storm water drains on the beach and construct ocean outfalls underground that would take that storm water much further out into the ocean.

"They have their own criteria about what they would like to see happen," says Pat Dowling, the North Myrtle Beach city spokesperson. "It has nothing to do with state or federal regulations, this is what they would like to see happen in a perfect world."

The city of North Myrtle Beach also says as of this past February they started testing the beach water twice a week. These measures could help get them a higher rating next year with the NRDC but the city says cleaning the beach water is what it's really concerned with.

"Water quality matters,"  Dowling continued. "Everyone is focused on it but it's a money game.

The city hopes to get federal funding to pay for two more ocean outfalls set for construction this fall. The projects cost 8 million dollars each.

Here are the 13 beaches that received the 5-star rating in 2012:

  • Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Baldwin County
  • Alabama: Gulf State Park Pavilion in Baldwin County
  • California: Bolsa Chica Beach in Orange County
  • California: Newport Beach in Orange County (2 of 3 monitored sections)
    • Newport Beach - 38th Street
    • Newport Beach - 52nd/53rd Street
  • California: San Clemente State Beach in Orange County (2 of 2 monitored sections)
    • San Clemente State Beach - Avenida Calafia
    • San Clemente State Beach - Las Palmeras
  • Delaware: Dewey Beach - Dagsworthy in Sussex County
  • Delaware: Rehoboth Beach in Sussex County
  • Maryland: Ocean City at Beach 6 in Worcester County
  • Michigan: Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay County
  • Minnesota: Park Point Franklin Park / 13th Street South Beach Park Point in St. Louis County
  • Minnesota: Lafayette Community Club Beach in St. Louis County
  • New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County
  • New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach in Rockingham County

These 11 beaches have had persistent contamination problems:

  • California: Avalon Beach in Los Angeles County (4 of 5 monitored sections):
    • Avalon Beach 100 feet west of the Green Pleasure Pier
    • Avalon Beach 50 feet east of the Green Pleasure Pier
    • Avalon Beach 50 feet west of the Green Pleasure Pier
    • Avalon Beach East of the Casino Arch at the steps
  • California: Doheny State Beach in Orange County (6 of 7 monitored sections):
    • Doheny State Beach, 1000' South Outfall
    • Doheny State Beach, 2000' South Outfall
    • Doheny State Beach, 3000' South Outfall
    • Doheny State Beach, North Beach
    • Doheny State Beach, North of San Juan Creek 
    • Doheny State Beach, Surfzone at Outfall
  • California: Poche County Beach in Orange County
  • Indiana: Jeorse Park Beach in Lake County (2 of 2 monitored sections):
    • Lake Jeorse Park Beach I
    • Lake Jeorse Park Beach II
  • New Jersey: Beachwood Beach in Ocean County
  • New York: Ontario Beach in Monroe County
  • Ohio: Lakeshore Park in Ashtabula County
  • Ohio: Euclid State Park in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Edson Creek in Erie County
  • Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee County

From the report, the NRDC determined Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota had the highest violation rates. Delaware, New Hampshire and North Carolina have the lowest percentage of beaches in violation of health standards.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.