SC beaches drop in water quality in 2011, NRDC report says
FOLLY BEACH — On a clear blustery day, Marian Martin of James Island settled into a beach chair and looked out at the ocean.
She was concerned about the latest Natural Resources Defense Council beach water quality report that dropped South Carolina out of the top 10 cleanest states, she said.
“I don't want it to be nasty or trashy,” she said. “It hurts the sea life, and it damages everything.
“I want it to be clean. I don't want to worry about getting sick or my daughter getting sick from it.”
Click here to read the NRDC report.
The annual report ranked South Carolina 17th out of 30 coastal and Great Lakes states in 2011, following a 2010 report that ranked the state ninth.
But the state had a total of only 10 days when an individual beach was closed due to pollution, among 63 beaches.
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The report is based on S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control test samples at various beach spots.
In 2011, 8 percent of those tests found pollution above levels considered safe. In 2010, 5 percent did.
The worst Charleston-area beach was Sullivan's Island, at 8 percent, followed by Folly Beach at 6 percent.
Most of the trouble comes from animal or human waste. The more developed a beach, the more likely it is to have a problem with fecal bacteria.
Water pollution tends to spike after rains, when runoff dumps from the streets into the water, carrying waste with it. A person could get sick if bacteria is swallowed or goes up the nose.
The state issues advisories not to swim at beaches with unsafe samples until pollution subsides. The 10 days of advisories listed in 2011 for individual beaches were up from four in 2010, the report noted.
Sullivan's Island, Folly Beach and Edisto Island each had one swimming advisory day in the May to mid-October spans when the state tests the beaches.
“There are very few swimming advisories issued in our state. Most happen after heavy rain,” said Adam Myrick, DHEC spokesman.
Chronically the worst in the state are beaches in Myrtle Beach and Horry County, where street-surface storm drains empty directly onto the beach.
Many of the drain sites are permanently posted with a swimming advisory, Myrick said.
Myrtle Beach recently constructed an outfall pipe to empty nine former drains in deeper water offshore. The report cited the improvement but said installing “green” buffers would have been cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
Riding a bike on Folly Beach on Wednesday, a sunburned Jay Lowans, who lives at the beach, said he hadn't thought much about the water quality. Hearing about the report, though, concerned him.
The pollution it listed is “what we know about,” he said. Depending on what we don't know about, “it could be a big problem.”