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The water quality of South Carolina's beaches are among the worst in the country once again, particularly along the Grand Strand, an environmental advocacy group says today.

Only six states ranked worse and only two in the Southeast, according to Natural Resource Defense Council's annual beach-quality report that rates water quality around beaches on both coasts and the shores of the Great Lakes.

Last year, 15 percent of South Carolina beaches tested for levels that federal standards dictate as being safe for swimming.

Six beaches exceeding the standards were cited in the report, each in Horry County: Briarcliff Acres Beach, Horry County Beaches South Carolina Campgrounds, Myrtle Beach, Arcadia Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.

The rankings of South Carolina and beaches and others nationwide generally remained unchanged from last year, when not including tighter federal standards implemented over the past year, the report says.

The tests, conducted by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, measure the amount of bacteria contained in water that can cause disease.

The report emphasized that the findings aren't necessarily a poor reflection of beach-monitoring programs.

"It is important to note that while a high percent exceedance rate is a clear indication of contaminated coastal recreational waters," the report says, "it is not necessarily an indication that the state's beach water quality monitoring program is deficient or fails to protect public health when beach water quality is poor."

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