Construction is underway and on schedule for the latest deep water ocean outfall project in North Myrtle Beach.
A temporary platform was built in October allowing the contractor and crew to install the concrete outfall pipe, said city spokesman Pat Dowling. The platform could be extended farther into the ocean later or crews will use a barge to reach the full length of the pipe, which will reach about 1,200 feet into the ocean. The platform will be removed once the pipe is lowered into the ocean.
The improvements are intended to help keep ocean water near beaches cleaner and reduce the time the affected beaches need to be closed, according to officials.
Dowling said the $9.5 million project in the heart of the city at Main Street is aimed at reducing bacteria levels in the surf by removing current drainage pipes and replacing them with pipes that dump the stormwater 1,200 feet away from shore. Construction will last through the winter, with completion targeted for the end of April or early May.
“We do these projects so we can gradually ensure bacteria levels are as low as possible,” Dowling said.
An outfall project in Myrtle Beach that was slated to start this fall was delayed at least one year, said spokesman Mark Kruea.
The project was planned to combine the existing stormwater drainage pipes that empty at the beach into two 84-inch pipes that would run underneath the sea bed and out more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean.
Kruea said engineers had estimated the work would cost about $8 million before they opened the bidding to potential contractors. However, Kruea said the city only received one bid from a company that estimated the work at a cost of more than $10 million.
“We’ll re-bid it next year – early – and hopefully be able to have work begin next October,” he said.
In North Myrtle Beach, the Horseshoe at the end of Main Street will remain closed for the outfall work until early May, when it will reopen as a coquina parking lot. In a year, the lot will close again to be paved and have new amenities built. Those amenities and the design have not been finalized.
Rain pushes pollutants into stormwater that ultimately runs to the ocean, which leads to high bacteria levels and sometimes swimming advisories or beach closures, Dowling said.
“When you have these rain events ... that cause beach closures that’s when you get bad press nationwide,” Dowling said. “It’s a lot of money, but if you consider all the things that could happen it’s best to just do the project.”
Much of that bad press comes once a year in a report by the National Resources Defense Council, which repeatedly calls beaches in Horry County among the dirtiest in the nation. This summer, the nonprofit environmental organization ranked South Carolina at 26 of the 30 states along the nation’s shores that include the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes in beach water quality.
The NRDC has given credit to North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach for working to improve water quality with the outfalls.
“These projects, which cost millions of dollars per ocean outfall, have created significant reductions in the amount of fecal indicator bacteria found in beach water where they have been implemented,” according to the NRDC.
The deepwater ocean outfalls allow for the removal of multiple pipes that pour water directly onto the beach, where beachgoers wade, swim, surf and fish.
This is the fifth outfall for North Myrtle Beach and Dowling said there likely will be eight or nine more, but it will take years to complete due to the cost. The other outfalls are at 45th Avenue South, 39th Avenue South, 21st Avenue South and Sixth Avenue South. Those four outfalls cost $15 million.