MYRTLE BEACH, SC (THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER) -- South Carolina ranks eighth in the nation in terms of beach water quality, but Horry County beach water is the dirtiest in the state, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council's 20th annual "Testing the Water" report issued Wednesday.
Myrtle Beach's city manager, Tom Leath, called the report "bull."
"It's so incomplete and misleading, it's laughable," he said. "They've been whacking on us for years. They never give us a good rating, no matter what we do."
The report's national rankings list the top 10 states as New Hampshire, Delaware, Oregon, Virginia, Hawaii, North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Washington and Florida. The bottom five are Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Rhode Island and Louisiana.
Among the 63 S.C. beaches discussed in the report, 4 percent exceeded state standards for bacteria and pollutants at one time or another during 2009, the report shows. Most of them were in Horry County, specifically the Myrtle Beach-Surfside Beach area. The 4 percent is down from 7 percent in 2008.
In looking at the percentage of water-monitoring samples that exceeded South Carolina's acceptable bacteria levels, the nonprofit NRDC found the beaches with the highest exceedence rates were:
South Carolina State Park and Campground, 15 percent;
Surfside Beach, 10 percent;
Springmaid Beach, 9 percent;
Myrtle Beach, 7 percent.
Horry County's exceedence rate of 6 percent was the highest county rate in the state, followed by Colleton County with 1 percent exceedence. There were no instances of exceeding bacterial standards reported in Charleston, Beaufort and Georgetown counties.
South Carolina State Park and Campground, Myrtle Beach, Springmaid Beach and Surfside Beach each received a one-star rating out of a possible five because, the report says, they meet only one of the quality criteria - posting closings and advisories online and at the beach.
North Myrtle Beach received three stars for its overall water quality last year and in the past three years, plus its timely reporting of beach advisories and closings.
The other S.C. beaches that earned three stars are Hilton Head Island, Hunting Island, Edisto Beach and Folly Beach. No S.C. beach earned more than three stars.