The tide is high in Withers Swash as Myrtle Beach braces for Hurricane Florence. Photo by Janet Morgan/Myrtle Beach Herald janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen began Thursday’s city council workshop by refuting a story that there had been a sewer explosion at Coastal Grand Mall.

Pedersen said reports of such an explosion were false and the incident had actually been a water line break.

City public works director Janet Curry explained that the water pipes at the mall had been installed in 2004 when the mall was built. Time and weather had worn the iron bolts, causing the break. Curry said the force of the water coming from the weak pipe connection caused the asphalt above the section to buckle. She added that her staff is replacing the bolts with stainless steel ones and should lessen the likelihood of more problems.

Pedersen said over the last six years the city has put in roughly $20 million in water and sewer lines.

“We have over 800 miles of water and sewer lines within in the city,” he said. “With that many lines, you’re going to get breaks sometimes.”

That discussion led into a consultant’s presentation of suggestions for improving the quality of the stormwater heading into the city’s swashes. The consultant also discussed ways to lessen flooding during major rain events.

Tom Murray of WK Dickson said his company took an in-depth look at the Withers Basin watershed in the city. The water from this area eventually flows to the Withers Swash and into the ocean near the southern part of the city.

Murray said they looked at this particular area because the basin is the largest in the city, covering 3.4 miles of the city’s 23.7 miles and because it flows directly into the ocean. Just in this one basin, he said, are 3,500 drainage structures, 40 miles of drainage pipe and 21 miles of streams and channels.

The city has four major outfalls that carry stormwater far out into the ocean and away from the beaches. Murray said the typical outfall area covers 160-200 acres. The Withers Basin watershed encompasses a little over 2,000 acres reaching from the ocean to the Seaboard Street area.

Often times, the Department of Health and Environmental Control will issue temporary bacteria warnings all along the South Carolina coast after large rainfalls due to the increased stormwater runoff into the ocean that occurs.

Murray said his team has come up with various treatment projects for the area that will lessen the amount of bacteria that occurs during these large runoffs. Those range from increasing and enhancing the pipe infrastructure to looking at improving the conditions around stormwater retention ponds.

A high source of bacteria in the stormwater system comes from animal waste. Murray said a process as simple as putting plant buffers around and even in the ponds will deter animals, especially geese, from being attracted to the ponds.

He added the city should also come up with a public education plan to encourage pet owners to pick up after their pets. Murray said the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, has the same issues and has developed an effective public awareness program concerning pet waste.

A benefit from improving the stormwater infrastructure is seen during heavy rains.

Councilman Phil Render said the city has spent upwards of $70 million over the last 15-20 years on decreasing flooding within the city limits.

“When I was growing up here, the city flooded all the time, but now we don’t have near the levels we used to,” Render said. “I’m all for projects that will continue this trend. And I think we should offer assistance to the county on their flood issues in surrounding neighborhoods.”

Murray said the next step for his team is to hold a public meeting sometime in November before finalizing the Withers report. Plans then call for beginning the planning phase of studying Deep Head Swash and Cane Patch watersheds.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236


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