Questions over washed up birds still remain in North Myrtle Beach

An ABC15 viewer, who asked not to be identified, sent this photo of a pelican that washed up. It was one of dozens of dead birds to wash up last weekend in North Myrtle Beach. The city wants to know the cause. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

What’s with the feathers?

It’s a question lots of people in North Myrtle Beach found themselves asking this weekend.

“There’s a lot of feathers that we’re just noticing washing up on shores,” said Carolyn Meierjurgen, a nearby resident.

The feathers follow a surprising find this weekend. ABC15 News viewers shared photos and videos of pelicans and seagulls — dozens of them — laying lifeless along the beach by the Cherry Grove Pier.

“It’d be nice to know why,” said Meierjurgen.

The truth is, nobody does right now.

“The city has been working with the Coast Guard, South Carolina DNR, South Carolina DHEC and other state and federal agencies,” said City Spokesman Pat Dowling. “They are taking the lead in this to try and determine what actually happened.”

Posts on social media went wild over the weekend. Some people pointed the finger at a possible fuel spill, connected to recent beach renourishment.

One viewer sent us a video, which appears to show a rainbow-like film over beach debris. He said he believes it’s some sort of fuel.

“None of the birds smelled of any type of fuel. None of the birds had a sheen of fuel on them, so we are actually looking for a different cause for the birds that died,” said Dowling, Monday.

Dowling said crews found four different types of birds, including pelicans and seagulls.

“I think what was interesting was that it was all found in a little isolated area in Cherry Grove and that fact that you have these different variety of birds all washing up,” said Jared Hendrix, a volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation.

Hendrix and the Surfrider Foundation fight for clean and healthy marine life. He didn’t want to speculate Monday, but he’s sent off samples of bird for independent testing. He’s eagerly waiting for results.

“Was it bacterial, was it chemical, is it a virus, you know, [you’re] playing detective. Trying to find the source of it,” he said.

Hendrix said if it is connected to fuel, it would be yet another reason to keep seismic drilling and other equipment away from the Grand Strand.

Dowling said he understands concern from residents online.

“The city is as concerned as they are. People want an instant answer because this is the age of instant satisfaction,” he said. “There’s not gonna be an instant answer, it’s gonna take a day or so.”

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) tells ABC15 News the water along Cherry Grove was not a risk for people in the area Monday.

The Department of Natural Resources and DHEC are still investigating.

Dowling said he hopes to get results back later this week.

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