Surfside Beach discusses recreational use of ponds

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Surfside Beach is hosting a workshop Tuesday to discuss formally allowing people to use retention ponds and lakes for recreation. Surfside Beach Mayor Doug Samples tells WMBF News so many people are already using retention lakes like Dogwood Lake, that the town wants to see if it should officially open it up for everyone to just join in.

But first, town council members want to know exactly what's in the water. Tuesday's workshop will look into the water conditions, the health risks, and how much damage recreational use could do to the ponds.

In Surfside Beach there are large embankment ponds, similar to lakes, that many people use for canoeing, fishing, and other recreational activities. But because so many people have moved into the area over the years, there are now concerns about the water quality. The large lakes are quickly filling up with all the stormwater runoff from the different subdivisions, so getting in could be a big health risk, and a liability for the town.

Researchers like Ben Powell with Clemson Extension say the town should move forward with caution.

"These old legacy ponds, which at one time were very suitable for fishing and boating, may have water quality challenges," explained Powell.

Powell says the original purpose of retention ponds was just to prevent flooding, and to help clean the water. The ponds collect all the stormwater runoff from the surrounding areas, such as dirt and animal waste, after a rain. So the amount of contaminants in the water could be higher than state quality standards, especially in smaller ponds.

Powell further explains the recreational use of retention ponds is a relatively new concept, so the research is still being done. But even at this point, researchers are not so sure it's safe for you.

"That was never their designed intent, unfortunately," said Powell. "So now what we've got is a situation where the ponds are expected to do things that they were not designed to do."

Mayor Samples says the town's goal was to set up some rules for people already using the lakes, and to help control what all happens there. After presentations from different researchers, there will be a discussion, but not an official vote. What happens during the workshop will determine the town's next move. The workshop starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the town hall.

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