With the weather and water warming up people are starting to swim at the beach, and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control is keeping an eye on the water quality.
As it does every year, DHEC will begin its routine testing of ocean water on May 1.
News13’s Maggie Lorenz talked with DHEC’s beach monitoring team Tuesday to learn more about when swim advisories are put in place.
Temporary swim advisories are issued when bacteria levels are higher than normal levels. That happens pretty often in the summer after heavy rainfall.
Water researchers with DHEC said there are a lot of misconceptions by the public about what these swim advisories mean.
One misconception the department hears often is people wondering: if there’s a swim advisory at my favorite beach, does that mean my weekend or vacation plans are ruined?
Sean Torrens, DHEC Environmental Health Manager, says no.
“It’s very short term, it will fix itself and be gone,” Torrens said. “It really has no bearing on your vacation in the future.”
During an advisory you don’t have to avoid the water all together. Most are isolated spots and last only a day or two. You can even wade and walk in the advisory area– just avoid swallowing the water, whichd could make you sick.
“Generally it’s like a gastrointestinal issue, so upset stomach or something in that effect is what occurs,” Bryan Rabon, DHEC Manager of Aquatic Science Programs with the Bureau of Water, said.
When asked about the drainage pipes on the beach and the kids who play in them, Rabon replied, “Definitely not should be in those areas. They need to be outside of those pipes just because it’s not a safe place.”
Those pipes or swashes are often placed under long-term swim advisories meaning they consistently have an increased risk of high bacteria levels.
Rabon said you should avoid swimming or playing in the direct drainage path.
Right now, there are 15 long-term advisories along the Grand Strand, which you can see on SC DHEC’s Beach Guide.
DHEC also said its currently working with local municipalities to figure out a way to consistently keep tourists up-to-date with all this info.