MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is fighting back after what it calls a negative campaign that went viral, which claimed the beach was under a long-term no-swim advisory.
Because of rumors all over social media saying Myrtle Beach's beaches are closed, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control tested water up and down Grand Strand beaches on March 14. It found water levels in each area were better than the national standard.
The MBACC is putting that message into a public service announcement and blasting it out nationally.
The 94-second PSA features travel correspondent Stephanie Oswald discussing the blog's claims that Myrtle Beach's oceans have high levels of bacteria, and a recent sampling of ocean waters conducted by DHEC.
"This misinformation has already impacted our tourism economy negatively," according to Brad Dean, president of the MBACC. "We're just simply trying to curb the negative impact and hopefully salvage some of what's already been lost. We can't afford to have people not coming here."
There is one thing that may lead people to get easily confused about water quality.
The ocean outfalls along beaches have elevated levels of bacteria when it rains because they pull water that washes over the ground and streets out to the ocean. DHEC normally checks water quality levels twice a month between May 1 and October 1. The test in March was in an effort to address rumors.
"DHEC themselves note that they've never closed our beaches, and they've never recommended not swimming along our oceanfront," Dean said. "There are long-term advisories in places where levels tend to see more bacteria after rainfall. The advisories are there to let people know about the potential for bacteria. Through the voluntary program the city of Myrtle Beach uses, they post signs in limited areas that say 'there's stromwater runoff here and there could be high levels of bacteria'. It doesn't mean that you can't swim there, or that you'll be harmed if you do. It just simply says to take note and be aware."
The signs are not a ban on the beach, but rather an advisory and a suggestion not to swim in the ocean within 200 feet on either side of the outfall.
The tests DHEC conducted earlier this month showed bacteria levels at every test site was far below the national standard, which meant water quality is better than the standard.
"Our beaches have never been closed," Dean said. "Our ocean water quality is clean and safe."
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View the report from DHEC's latest sampling event here: