A primary concern for beach water quality is the concentration of indicator bacteria such as Enterococcus. Enterococcus denotes the possible presence of fecal contamination and related pathogens in beach water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that increased concentrations of Enterococcus bacteria are correlated with increased illness of swimmers. Based on this correlation, the EPA has set concentration limits for Enterococcus bacteria in marine waters.
In 1997, a SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) sponsored workgroup initiated a study to reevaluate the quality of marine bathing waters in South Carolina. This was the first bacteriological marine bathing water quality study since 1982. Project partners included Horry and Georgetown Counties, the cities of North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, and the towns of Surfside Beach and Pawleys Island.
Since the completion of this successful cooperative venture, the EQL has worked with all of these project partners plus the town of Briarcliffe, to monitor the ocean water quality weekly each summer. The EQL has also monitored the ocean water quality every week since August 5, 1997 for the city of Myrtle Beach to determine the baseline concentration of Enterococcus bacteria in ocean waters.
You can view the Enterococcus data that we have collected since 1997 here.