“Water should be clean and safe for everyone all of the time. When you have 14 million tourists a year coming to swim, as is the case in Myrtle Beach, it ups the ante on any sort of gamble that could jeopardize water quality. It seems the responsible action to take in light of recent unfortunate events involving Myrtle Beach medical mysteries is to carefully scrutinize possible water contamination in real time. There are ways to do this with fairly simple devices, but they do cost money. Elected officials should get honest about what investments are best for Myrtle Beach’s future. Surely clean water is one of them,” said Lisa Jones Turansky, Chief Conservation Officer – Coastal Conservation League.
“Why would a city so dependent on tourism play Russian Roulette with its paying customers? With this level of volatility in city drainage areas and these bacteria spikes, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets very sick.”
Experts say a solution would cost around $200 million and those funds would likely need to come from the $32 million the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber currently gets annually in tourist taxes for advertising. It is unlikely, however, Mr. Dean would support that funding solution.
Lori Leonelli Parry and her family were on vacation in Myrtle Beach from Struthers, Ohio in July 2017. Struthers Ohio is a small American city located just under five miles south of Youngstown, Ohio.
Lori’s daughter Morgan became ill with skin cellulitis while vacationing in Myrtle Beach. Grand Strand Hospital staff were unsure what caused her illness. Skin cellulitis is a common condition that occurs when a person swims in waters contaminated with bacteria whose readings exceed 104. However, the disease can also come from an insect bite.
This past July 5th, the Parrys visited Myrtle Beach staying at Coral Beach Resort, which is just 5 blocks south of Withers Swash at the Family Kingdom. MyrtleBeachSC.com has reported on Withers Swash ongoing because the area is known for its volatile bacteria spikes that can run from normal, under 104, to 44 times unsafe for swimming after a rain storm. The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control asks all tourists not to swim within 200 feet of either side of Withers Swash.
After a recent Facebook post from a Lumberton, NC woman (who believed she contracted flesh eating bacteria in Myrtle Beach) went viral, Mrs. Parry reached out to MyrtleBeachSC.com to tell her family’s story.
“My daughter’s name is Morgan Parry, from Struthers, Ohio. We were in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina from June 29 – July 6th. We stayed at Coral Beach Resort during our vacation. We visited the beach several times during our stay.
She began to have allergy issues within the first 24 hours of our stay. She’s only 16. The air conditioning unit was not working after a few days of our stay at Coral Beach Resort. We went to Grand Strand Medical Center on July 5th – July 6th.
They “assumed” that my daughter was bit by a spider and not sure what type. The hospital said – not sure looks like a bacterial infection.
Finally after about 4 1/2 hours [they] gave my daughter a dose of an antibiotic and sent us away with a prescription. We were also told that my daughter had a case of [skin] cellulitis and the antibiotic medication should help. She was only seen in triage as no rooms were available at the time.
When we arrived home on July 6th, I did take my daughter to St. Elizabeth Hospital, Boardman campus. We were given 2 antibiotics (1) 800 mg and another 500 mg. They then cleaned the infected right lower leg, put a cream on it, and wrapped it -which should have been done previously at Grand Strand Medical Center, and was not.
My daughter developed skin cellulitis from our vacation there in Myrtle Beach, and also has scar tissue. She’s only 16 years old and she’s never had any issues or health problems before.”
As there is so much confusion, with a mix of deliberate misinformation about the correlation between ongoing Myrtle Beach tourist skin illnesses and Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) bacteria spikes that are well documented at 8 infected drainage areas in downtown Myrtle Beach, MyrtleBeachSC.com provides the following:
The problem with SCDHEC testing is it is reported twice weekly with a six day gap. During hot summer days, drainage areas heat up. These areas are a mix of salt water and fresh storm water runoff from city streets onto the beach. Bacteria thrive in hot waters. Afternoon showers are also common in Myrtle Beach during July summer days. The bacteria readings are volatile.
FOR REFERENCE: We spoke with a brittle diabetic, who once used a glucose monitor to check his blood sugars three times every day. He said his numbers could run normal at 8 a.m. then spike to over 200 by lunch. In between, he had no idea what his numbers were. He now uses a Dexcom constant blood sugar monitor. He always knows his current blood sugar level now and he can make insulin corrections immediately to stay in great control.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), checks areas like Withers Swash typically on Mondays and Tuesdays. On Tuesday, July 11th, SCDHEC ran a sample that showed normal. However, if it rained just one hour after that test, tourists would have no updated information until the following Monday, July 17th. Let’s say it rained Tuesday p.m., Wednesday all day, clear Thursday, rained Friday p.m. and then clear all day Saturday and Sunday. The bacteria spike ranges would change constantly during that week, but would be completely unknown from Tuesday July 11th until Monday, July 17th. DHEC’s own testing just below show these drainage areas do change from a low of below ten (awesome) on July 17 to a high of 520, five times above safe swimming, within 24 hours on July 18.
Where did the numbers range during any given hour in between the 24 hour period on just those two days? No one knows.
The current system leaves tourists in the dark most of the time while they are on vacation.
After this daughter’s post about her mother went viral on Facebook, Brad Dean, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President told WPDE T.V. Station this week,
“We’re very confident our water is fine, if only because it’s tested frequently, regularly, throughout the swimming season and we know the recent tests provided did indicate that our water quality along the oceanfront is just fine,” said Dean.
So far, the chamber said it doesn’t think the post has affected business in Myrtle Beach. The prayer request of this paying tourist from Lumberton, N.C. was picked up by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Fox News, and in total 80 media outlets.
“We got just a few calls and we’re not aware of any cancellations, but it certainly has sparked a lot of discussion along social media, some questioning the accuracy of what’s been provided, others simply wanting to know is the water in the Myrtle Beach area okay,” said Dean.
Dean’s comments about the issues and how those affect “business” can appear tone deaf to tourists whose first concerns are whether the water is actually safe or not for their children to swim in. Dean makes the point that he is confident the waters are safe, despite what the family from Lumberton believes.
Seth Godin is a highly successful American author, entrepreneur, and marketer who takes a much different approach. When it comes to how you treat your paying customers, Godin says, “Never go into a client issue looking to be right. Go into a client issue looking to make it right.”
No one, including Dean nor DHEC, can say for certain how these customers are getting sick. No one knows what the exact bacteria readings are at any given time of any given day, except the exact times on the two days the waters are tested.
The fact that skin cellulitis can be caused by several other factors also leaves open doors. According to the EPA, beach bacteria causes swimmers to experience flu like symptoms as well. MyrtleBeachSC.com received reports from 63 people who complained of ocean born sicknesses from May through last July 2016. Were these people actually sick from other issues like the actual flu, insect bites or poison ivy?
We reached out to Lisa Jones Turansky, Chief Conservation Officer of the Coastal Conservation League for an expert opinion. “Water should be clean and safe for everyone all of the time. When you have 14 million tourists a year coming to swim, as is the case in Myrtle Beach, it ups the ante on any sort of gamble that could jeopardize water quality. It seems the responsible action to take in light of recent unfortunate events involving Myrtle Beach medical mysteries is to carefully scrutinize possible water contamination in real time. There are ways to do this with fairly simple devices, but they do cost money. Elected officials should get honest about what investments are best for Myrtle Beach’s future. Surely clean water is one of them,” said Mrs. Turansky.
MyrtleBeachSC.com also reached out to among the world’s leading ocean bacteria testing expert, Dr. Rachel Noble, of the University of North Carolina. Dr. Noble’s research program bridges environmental microbiology and marine microbial ecology. A main thread of Dr. Noble’s work is the application of novel molecular techniques for applied and basic science. She has developed a range of rapid water quality test methods, including those for E. coli, Enterococcus, and Vibrio species and studies the dynamics of microbial contaminants contributed through storm-water runoff to high priority recreational and shellfish harvesting waters. Her N.C. team reduced the testing for all North Carolina beaches down to four hours max turn around on tourist communications about bacteria spikes should one occur. She shares her comments on the video above.
Installing a more frequent and constant water quality monitoring system at the eight infected areas is one solution that would put all tourists at ease. Solving the problem by building eight new outfalls or a huge retention pond for the storm water run off would put the entire issue to rest. Experts say that solution would cost around $200 million and those funds would likely need to come from the $32 million the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber currently gets annually in tourist taxes for advertising. It is unlikely, however, Mr. Dean would support that funding solution.
Myrtle Beach could quickly improve its brand by taking water quality issues out of this mystery. While the current odds have few tourists getting ill, one local downtown banker asked us, “Why would a city so dependent on tourism play Russian Roulette with its paying customers? With this level of volatility in city drainage areas and these bacteria spikes, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets very sick.”
A key question remains: Is Brad Dean, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber, right? Or the Parry Family? Either way Mrs. Parry says she is done with Myrtle Beach and won’t be back.
MyrtleBeachSC.com has written extensively on this issue over the past two years.