MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — As the summer quickly approaches, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is warning beachgoers to stay informed during its annual beach monitoring season.
May 1 will mark the start of DHEC’s annual beach monitoring season, and experts will collect water samples routinely at 122 locations along South Carolina’s beaches in order to monitor water quality for the purpose of protecting the public’s health.
“Our beach monitoring program specifically looks at bacteria levels,” said Lindsay Lachenmyer, a beach monitoring program coordinator. “And so the enterococcus bacteria that we examine — or that we monitor for is typically higher after heavy rainfall events.”
Enterococci are typically not considered harmful to humans, but their presence in the environment may indicate that other disease-causing organisms are present. If that happens, DHEC will issue short-term or temporary swimming advisories during the swimming season.
Temporary advisories usually only last one to two days. Long-term swimming advisories, however, are issued for beach water monitoring locations that have an increased possibility of high-bacteria levels, especially following rain events due to stormwater runoff.
Click here for an example of a long-term advisory in Myrtle Beach on 8th Avenue North on DHEC’s website.
“Since there are some stormwater outfalls in the Grand Strand area,” Lachenmyer said. “That’s one of the reasons why we want to make sure that people are aware of where they are on the beach and to monitor. That’s why it’s important for us, obviously, to monitor these areas.”
Myrtle Beach has spent $50 million in the last 20 years on stormwater management by extending outfall pipes to the beach. Experts have said outfalls are where most of the bacteria linger.
“I would try to keep your kids out of those as much as possible,” Lachenmyer said. “I would just try to find some lower areas along the actual beach in the water itself that they could go in and try to stay away from those drainage areas or any of those outfalls or swashes.”
Advisories do not mean that the beach is closed. They may be issued due to high bacteria counts or rainfall. The advisories are lifted once sample results fall below the limit of 104CFU/100mL.
DHEC’s beach monitoring season will end on Oct. 1.
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Maya Lockett is a reporter at News13. Maya is from Los Angeles. She joined the News13 team in November 2021. She graduated from Syracuse University. Follow Maya on Twitter and read more of her work here.