Myrtle Beach Bacteria Levels Remain a Costly Problem for the Grand Strand

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By Jacob Maslow

Bacteria levels in Myrtle Beach have officials concerned, as levels continue to rise on the area’s beach. Tourists come to Myrtle Beach’s north end to tan, play and collect shells, yet murky streams in the tourist destination have officials concerned.

The streams run off of the roads, roofs and parking lots in the area and are directed on to the beach. Officials have cautioned swimmers to avoid the 200 feet space where they dump into the ocean water. The runoff, which cuts through the sand, is a part of 12 additional runoff pipes and streams that carry murky streams of runoff into the ocean.

Officials claim that tourists are missing the “swimming is not advised” signage in the area.

Myrtle Beach has been highly developed, filled with vacation homes, businesses and hotels that run along the bay. Rain water has little opportunity to be absorbed into the ground. The result is that water is pushed back into the ocean. During periods of heavy rain, it’s not uncommon for officials to post a water-quality advisory.

The issue escalated in May when the Health and Environmental Control department warned against swimming in all of the county’s beaches. The advisory lasted for a day before being lifted, as officials waited for bacteria levels in the water to lower.

Cities have been working on a solution for decades, with a routing plan that will route the water further out into the ocean where people don’t swim. Myrtle Beach has been working to improve water quality for over 25 years. A regional storm water system, detention pond and debris traps have been put in place to address ocean water quality.

The expense for adding in underwater pipes is too much for smaller cities to absorb, with officials stating that discussions involving the pipes are no longer discussed.

The Grand Strand’s water system was put in place in the middle of the last century, with officials claiming that the system would include runoff pipes that emptied on the beaches. Water was also sent over the beach and drained directly into the ocean.

Four outfall pipes have cost Myrtle Beach $37.5 million, and North Myrtle Beach spent $26.7 million on five outfall pipes. Despite the great efforts of officials, the Grand Strand still maintains long-term, permanent swimming advisories.

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