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Myrtle Beach’s “Dirty Water” Problem Persists




In case you missed it our founding editor Will Folks and his family are vacationing on Pawleys Island, S.C. this week … and next week.

Tough life, right?

Anyway, Folks’ annual jaunt to the South Carolina coast has prompted us to revisit the issue of water quality along the Grand Strand – which has evolved into a bitter battle for the hearts and minds of would-be tourists from all over the country.

In recent years, multiple beaches in Horry County – the “Redneck Riviera” region of the Grand Strand – have been slapped with warning signs by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).  These signs advise swimmers to stay out of the water due to elevated levels of bacteria.

Talk about a terrible message to send prospective vacationers …

Each year from May 1 through October 1, SCDHEC tests coastal waters for enterococcus bacteria.  Any reading above 104 means that swimming is not advised in the area.

So … are the water quality problems that dominated headlines earlier this year persisting?  In a word, “yes.”

Over the last four weeks, half a dozen Grand Strand beaches have registered readings above this threshold according to SCDHEC’s water monitoring website.

Here are those elevated readings and their locations …

441 – Discharge South Ocean Lakes (Myrtle Beach)
364 – 24th Avenue North (Myrtle Beach)
350 – Beaverdam Creek Swash (Myrtle Beach)
246 – Whitepoint Swash – Briarcliffe Acres (Myrtle Beach)
211 – Withers Swash – 23rd Avenue South (Myrtle Beach)
110 – 8th Avenue North (Myrtle Beach)

Three of these beaches – including a 24th Avenue North location in the heart of Myrtle Beach’s oceanfront hotel district – posted readings containing three times the maximum bacterial content recommended for safe swimming.

Myrtle Beach tourism officials – who recently secured a ten-year extension of a controversial sales tax increase – continue to vigorously dispute the “dirty water” narrative.  In fact they’ve proposed spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to combat “misinformation” about coastal water quality.  Meanwhile local mainstream media outlets have been uniformly supportive of their tourism leaders – in those rare instances in which they raise the issue.

Our view?  As peak tourism season begins, dirty water continues to be a persistent problem for the Grand Strand – especially Myrtle Beach.  Along with elevated crime levels and rampant local corruption, it’s one of several immediate issues that will make it much harder for Myrtle Beach to address its larger, long-term problem.