A hot summer’s day in July and once again the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach is packed from the parking lots to the water line. As one of America’s top beaches, Myrtle Beach attracts everyone and everything.
The area has a nickname, "Dirty Myrtle" which refers to anything between a type of drink to a mud run. But over the last decade, the nickname's meaning has slipped away from local leaders control over marketing towards the numerous swimming advisories that warn visitors of the poor water quality along the beach.
South Carolina is the 3rd worst state for beach water quality in the country. Over the last few years the most popular beaches in the area have had increasing bacteria levels.
Swimming advisories indicate that bacteria in the water such as, fecal coliform, are too high for the public to swim or consume fish caught in that area. Symptoms of swimming related illness range from mild to severe including, ear infection, skin rashes and diarrheal. The young and the elderly are at greatest risk of illness from high bacterial levels in swimming water.
Science shows that harmful bacteria come from storm water runoff.
Storm water outfalls are a common occurrence on the Grand Strand and surrounding beaches. They carry the storm water from the city onto the beach and into the ocean. While there are some signs near these outfalls warning of the dangers of them they are small and hard to read. Often the signs are pointed in the opposite direction of beach goers.
|The picture above by Genevieve shows beach goers sitting close to a storm water outfall. The signs notifying visitors of potential risks is small and faces away from beach access points.|
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) monitors bacteria levels in the Myrtle Beach Area as a part of the Beach Act. Legislators established The Beach Act in 2000 as an amendment of the Clean Water Act. The Beach Act mandates that coastal states have a beach notification system for public safety in regards to coastal recreational waters. DHEC is also responsible for issuing a statement to local news outlets of an advisory and posting signs on the beach effected.
Since 2007, DHEC has implemented long term advisories for Myrtle Beach.
|DHEC illustration depicting the meaning of a long-term swim advisory.|
While swimming advisories may appear as a small issue it sheds light on the problems of political corruption in Myrtle Beach such as, the Chamber of Commerce.
There is a power struggle between the residents of the area and local leaders. The Chamber of Commerce is trying to bring more out of state tourists with incentives like the penny tax and business deals with foreign corporations particularly with China. However, the local community consider these shady business deals of Mayor John Rhodes and Chamber of Commerce President, Brad Dean. Former Governor Nikki Haley fought against the Penny Tax through veto power to protect local interests, but she lost the fight as the bill was ultimately passed in the house. in their corner as the Penny Tax went to the state where it was vetoed by Nikki but ultimately passed by the house.
Beach vacations are a favorite American pastime and the last thing vacationers want to worry about is whether the very beach they came to visit is going to make them sick.
At the end of the day each summer season offers South Carolina billions of dollars. The value of business is more important than public safety in the eyes of the Chamber of Commerce even though their statement is Promote, Protect and Improve.
If Myrtle Beach wants to rid itself of the dirty nickname they must improve their water. Until then, DHEC must create a better system of warning beachgoers of potential threats in beach waters. If the trends continue in Myrtle Beach the town could lose the very tourism dollars they are trying to draw in.