SC's beach water safety ranked 24th of 30 in US by environmental group

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- An environmental action group says South Carolina's beach water is among the worst in the country.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the waters along the state's beaches are ranked 24th in quality out of 30, largely due to 15 percent of water samples taken exceeded the national safety threshold.

The group says of the state's 64 beach areas, 41 were not monitored or had a small sample size; 10 beaches had less than 10 percent of its samples exceed the safety threshold; 7 had less than 20 percent exceed the limit.

Three beaches did not have any samples exceed the safety threshold; and three beaches had more than 20 percent of the samples exceed the safety threshold.

According to the NRDC, South Carolina's percentage of beaches that exceeded the national standard has been on the rise since 2009. Based on the newly proposed Beach Action Value, the state would have 15 percent of its beaches exceeding the safety threshold.

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act helps states and local governments create monitoring programs to protect public health. The programs help local officials test beach water for bacteria and issue closings or advisories when bacteria levels exceed a certain threshold.

The EPA issued a new Beach Action Value. The EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions."

The use of the BAV is currently optional, but the EPA's proposed National Beach Guidance and Required Performance Criteria for Grants would require states receiving BEACH Act funding to use the BAV to trigger beach notifications.

The state's beach water quality monitoring program is administered by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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