Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is one of the major United States tourism centers attracting an estimated 14 million visitors each year due to its warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches. However, after reports that Myrtle Beach is under a long-term no-swim advisory due to water pollution, tourists are avoiding the area. The business community is understandably not happy about it.
So is Myrtle Beach really under a long-term no-swim advisory that warrants tourists to stay away? As WBTW News 13 reports on March 14, city officials say that the Myrtle Beach swimming advisory is nothing to be afraid of and that there is no reason for tourists to avoid the beaches due to water pollution.
“For two weeks, myrtlebeachsc.com has posted stories on the beach’s water quality. Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Mark Kruea told News13 the headlines are misleading.”
To answer the question whether or not it is safe to swim at Myrtle Beach, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) is weighing in on the long-term no-swim debate:
“Essentially what these signs are, they are more cautionary than anything,” says DHEC Spokesperson Robert Yanity. “These are not in any way advisories to indicate that people shouldn’t be swimming or recreating near the water, these areas are just places that have the potential for bacteria after a heavy rain.”
In fact, the no-swim signs at Myrtle Beach have been there for nearly 10 years and are strategically placed at rain runoff locations. As the signs clearly state, there are times when swimming at certain locations is not advised:
“CAUTION, High bacteria levels are routinely present at this location, especially in days following rainfall events. SWIMMING IS NOT ADVISED within 200 feet of the swash / stormwater outfall.”
A Myrtle Beach interactive map provided by the DHEC shows the exact location of those signs and where swimming is not advised due to high bacteria levels. By zooming in, one can see many more public access places to the beach that are safe.
In addition, the DHEC informs locals and tourists about the following beach monitoring procedure:
“We routinely collect water samples at more than 120 locations along South Carolina’s beaches. If high numbers of bacteria are found, we issue an advisory for that portion of the beach. An advisory means that DHEC advises you NOT to swim in those areas. This is especially true for young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.”
“Advisories do not mean that the beach is closed. Wading, fishing, and shell collecting do not pose a risk. Advisories may be issued due to high bacteria counts or rainfall. Advisories are lifted when sample results fall below the limit of 104CFU/100mL. Check the local newspaper and television news stations. Look for advisory signs when you go to the beach.”
“The South Carolina beach monitoring season begins May 1 and runs through October 1.”
For tourists planning on going to Myrtle Beach, the last sentence that the DHEC is monitoring the beaches only from May to October needs clarification by the health department. What about students wanting to go to Myrtle Beach for spring vacation?
Like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, San Diego in California depends on income from tourists and news like a city has a long-term no-swim advisory would be utterly detrimental to its economy.
While San Diego has the very same long-term no-swim signs located at sewer or rain runoff locations, San Diego officials monitor bacteria levels year round, especially after rains, and local news agencies issue appropriate reminders to tourists and locals.
While the South Carolina Myrtle Beach long-term no-swim advisory news about the water pollution might be false, as city spokesperson Mark Kruea states, it appears that city officials need to do more for the safety of its local residents and tourists.