A primary concern for beach water quality is exposure to pathogens. The risk of illness from this exposure is esimated by measuring fecal indicator organisms such as Enterococcus. In an EPA study, increased concentration of enterococcus bacteria correlated with increased illness of swimmers. This correlation has been used by the EPA to set concentration limits of Enterococcus bacteria in marine waters.
In 1997, a SC 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. Ninety-five percent of the study was performed for the government entities of Horry and Georgetown County. The cities of North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, Horry and Georgetown Counties and Towns of Surfside Beach and Pawleys Island contracted with the Environmental Quality Lab to perform this work.
Since the completion of this successful cooperative venture the EQL worked with the cities of North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, Horry County and Towns of Surfside Beach and Briarcliffe to weekly monitor the Ocean water quality each summer through 2003. Since that time, the EQL has continued monitoring weekly year round for the city of Myrtle Beach and in 2013 began monitoring for the city of North Myrtle Beach. All the Enterococcus results from all sites on the Grand Strand since monitoring began in 1997 are available at: http://bccmws.coastal.edu/enteroview. For access to other sites and more information, see: http://www.coastal.edu/eql/projects/beaches.html .
Dissolved Oxygen in Long Bay
In July 2004, scientists in the Watershed Academy discovered hypoxic waters in the nearshore of Long Bay. This work was part of an award-winning student research project:
Bevington, A., S. Libes, J. Bennett, A. Hall, N. Capper and E. Tosso (2004) Hypoxia in the Surf Zone of the Grand Strand: Likely Causes. Southeastern Estuarine Research Society. Semiannual Meeting, Oct 14-16, 2004, Wilmington, NC. (best undergraduate oral presentation) and SC Section of the American Water Works Association and SC Water Environment Association´s 15th Annual South Carolina Environmental Conference, Mar 19-23, 2005, Myrtle Beach, SC. (poster)
To investigate the extent and causes of these phenomenon, a group of researchers formed the Long Bay Working Group. Their web pages are located at: http://www.caro-coops.org/longbay/index.html.
SC DHEC OCRM and SC DNR have both provided funding for monitoring work conducted by the Waccamaw Watershed Academy from 2006 to 2008. Reports summarizing findings can be downloaded from the following links: SC DHEC OCRM report 2008 and SC DNR report 2009. This work continues with funding from the SC DNR and the SC Sea Grant Consortium. Real-time data can be viewed at: http://www.ysieconet.com/public/WebUI/Default.aspx?hidCustomerID=131. An informational brochure can be downloaded here.
A presentation delivered to Coastal Alliance on August 3, 2011 can be downloaded here.