Beachgoers along the Grand Strand are allowed to swim in the ocean following Hurricane Florence, but state officials are advising against it.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control typically tests water quality along the beaches twice a week May 1- Oct. 1, but its website currently shows that samplings haven’t been posted since at least Sept. 10. DHEC posts swim advisories when it determines bacteria levels are too high.
DHEC spokesman Tommy Crosby said the department is advising people to stay out of the water due to potential safety issues, including high bacteria and debris.
Myrtle Beach along the boardwalk had sparse visitors on a windy Monday afternoon, though a handful of people were playing in the discolored water.
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The city lifted its beach ban Sept. 18.
Crosby said DHEC will resume ocean testing as soon as it can, but its primary focus right now is aiding in monitoring floodwaters in the state.
Susan Libes, director of the environmental quality lab at Coastal Carolina, said she wouldn’t swim in the ocean along Grand Strand beaches right now because, if nothing else, there might be debris in the water.
Libes helps monitor the water for Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach by monitoring water quality sensors that are placed near Cherry Grove, Apache and 2nd Avenue piers.
Those expensive devices were removed in anticipation of Hurricane Florence and were still being re-installed Monday, Libes said. Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach took bacteria samplings Monday, she said, but the results won’t be available until Tuesday.
Libes said the discoloration of the ocean water isn’t necessarily a concern — it may just be natural organic matter washing off lawns and forested areas — but she admits she is noticing some unusual conditions.
Salt and oxygen levels are “impressively low” near Cherry Grove, she said, which indicates a large volume of freshwater entered the ocean and other pollutants could have come along with it.
David Weissman: @WeissmanMBO; 843-626-0305