Travel

How clean are Carolinas beaches?

Heading to the beach for the holiday weekend? Good news: The Carolinas' beaches rank in the top 10 for cleanliness.

North Carolina was seventh and South Carolina ninth among 30 states in the annual rankings conducted by the National Resources Defense Council. A large number of beaches in some of the top tourists areas had perfect scores in the report for 2010.

But there are areas of caution: The report paints an unflattering picture of Myrtle Beach State Park and the sound-side beach at Jockey's Ridge on the Outer Banks.

Nationally, New Hampshire beaches ranked No. 1 in the country - if you're brave enough to deal with the chilly North Atlantic water. New Jersey was second, and Oregon third.

At the bottom? Louisiana.

The rankings were based on the percentage of regular tests in which fecal material and other pollutants were higher than state standards. Scientists who conducted the survey noted that Louisiana's score was hurt by the environmental damage caused by the BP oil well explosion and leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you take away the BP problem, Ohio would rank at the bottom.

The study took special aim at the Great Lakes states, which ranked near the bottom. Scientists said the number of days in which beaches were closed in 2010 due to pollution problems in the Great Lakes was the second highest in the study's 21 years.

The Carolinas' worst score went to the sound-side access at Jockey's Ridge State Park, in the Outer Banks town of Nags Head, where 22 percent of last year's tests exceeded state standards. Another Outer Banks beach, Colington Harbour in Kill Devil Hills, was second worst, with 17 percent of tests missing the mark.

The two lowest scores in South Carolina went to Myrtle Beach State Park (15 percent) and Surfside Beach (11 percent).

Mark Kruea, a spokesman for Myrtle Beach, said the report didn't recognize improvements made by the city and that tests are conducted more often at Myrtle Beach than elsewhere in South Carolina.

"I don't think it gives us credit for posting warnings, which we do all the time," Kruea said. "We have been very conscientious."

The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News contributed

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