Ocean pollution report misleading, city says

Published: Jun. 27, 2012 at 7:50 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2012 at 12:38 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Experts are taking a look at how clean the beach water is in Horry County after one agency released a report showing the level of bacteria lurking below.

The Natural Resources Defense Council released its annual report Wednesday on water quality, and some surprising facts were released about the amount of bacteria found in the water.

The results are based on the individual reports of government water samples taken from the ocean and they measure the amount of bacteria and pollution found floating.

South Carolina right now ranks 17th in beach water quality out of the 30 states tested. Just last year, the council's report shows that out of all of South Carolina's beaches, the ones with the highest level of bacteria were found in Horry County. The report indicates the percentage above South Carolina's pollutant guidelines for each beach tested.

The most polluted beach is the area around Springmaid Pier, rating 18% higher than the state's guidelines.

"I wouldn't argue with you," said beachgoer Butch Marshall, "It's not as clean as it used to be."

But City of Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Mark Kruea says there are some confusing rules about what constitutes a polluted beach in the NRDC report, and Myrtle Beach's oceans aren't as polluted as the report leads readers to believe.

"They look at different problems in the same lump," Kruea said. "We don't have the sewage problems of the West Coast or the industrial problems of the Northeast. We're really fortunate that rainwater is our main concern."

The report rates 200 of the nation's most popular beaches, evaluating their water quality and practices for testing and alerting the public on water quality on a five star rating scale.

In 2012, the report designated one dozen beaches of those 200 beaches as five-star beach destinations, none of which are located in South Carolina.

The report also highlights the top 15 "Repeat Offenders," which repeatedly exhibit chronically high bacteria counts. Luckily, Horry County beaches didn't make that list either.

Efforts using deep ocean waterfalls have been made to reduce the amount of pollution in the Grand Strand's ocean water, but it is costly.

The multi-million dollar project combines nine drainage pipes together and discharges about 1,000 feet into the ocean and away from swimmers.

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