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South Carolina beaches had a higher percentage of pollution-tainted surf last summer than all but three other Atlantic coast states, according to a recent beach water quality report.
Beaufort County beaches, however, were rated clean.
About 8 percent of the surf samples taken in South Carolina exceeded national standards for ocean water quality, a report by Natural Resources Defense Council released Wednesday said. That meets the national average, but is higher than every south Atlantic state and most states on the north Atlantic coast.
Individually, only New York, Connecticut and Maine had higher percentages of beach water samples that exceeded nationally recommended standards, the report said.
In Beaufort County, Hilton Head Island had only 1 percent of 151 samples exceeding state pollution standards last year, the report said. The previous year, 2 percent of samples exceeded standards.
Fripp, Harbor and Hunting islands had no samples last year exceeding state standards. Hunting and Fripp islands had 50 samples taken, and Harbor Island had 30 samples.
In 2010, 3 percent of samples at Harbor Island exceeded standards; 2 percent for Hunting Island; and none for Fripp.
Samples at all of these Beaufort County beaches are taken twice a month. None of the local beaches were closed or had advisories issued last year because of pollution.
The NRDC's findings don't necessarily mean the surf in South Carolina is more polluted than most other places. The Palmetto State tested more frequently last year than some states -- meaning South Carolina may simply have been more aggressive at finding problems and warning the public, the NRDC report shows.
"We should commend them for it,'' said Jon Devine, a senior attorney with the NRDC, a national environmental group. "It makes sure people are aware of the areas and times when swimming is most risky.''
Beaches in Horry County, home to Myrtle Beach, had the highest average rate of elevated levels in South Carolina, at 11 percent, according to the NRDC report.
Elevated bacteria levels in South Carolina last summer prompted the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to warn people against swimming a few times, agency spokesman Adam Myrick said. Myrick said the state has issued no advisories this year.
The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette contributed to this article.