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Water -- South Carolina Swimming Advisories

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Frequently Asked Questions

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How can I contact DHEC for more information on swimming advisories?

Please call our hotline toll-free at 1-800-360-5655

Where do bacteria in rivers and streams come from?

All rivers, lakes and streams have naturally occuring bacteria but humans, pets and wildlife often increase the amount of bacteria in natural waters. Bacteria can come from sewer systems, animal droppings or failing septic systems. Also, rainwater can carry bacteria and germs into the water. Areas with shallow and warmer water often have more germs too.

How much of a chance do I have of getting sick?

Studies of swimming areas with high amounts of bacteria show that about eight (8) swimmers out of one thousand (1,000) swimmers get sick. Swimming in any river, lake or stream means taking a chance on getting sick.

What kind of sickness can I get?

The most common sickness is gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis can cause nausea, vomiting, stomachache, fever, headache, and diarrhea. You can also get eye, ear, nose, and throat problems.

Who is at the most risk of getting sick?

Children, pregnant women, and people who have trouble fighting off disease are at the most risk of getting sick while swimming.

Can I eat the fish caught in streams with swimming advisories?

Cleaning and cooking your fish thoroughly before eating should kill any harmful bacteria. Some fish in South Carolina also contain mercury, which can be harmful to humans in large quantities. Visit the fish consumption advisory website for more information about mercury in fish.

Is it safe for my dog to swim in water with a swimming advisory?

Water in South Carolina is tested for human use. DHEC does not test to see if animals are at risk from swimming in waters with an advisory. If you are concerned, contact your veterinarian for more information.

Is it safe to go tubing, kayaking or canoeing in water with a swimming advisory?

Activities like boating are generally less risky than swimming in water with an advisory. However, there is a chance you may get sick if you accidentally fall into the water or swallow it.

Are swimming advisories different from beach advisories?

Yes. DHEC tests South Carolina’s freshwaters as well as its beaches. Swimming advisories are issued for freshwaters (i.e. rivers, lakes and streams). Beach advisories are issued for areas along the coast. Visit the beach monitoring program website for more information about beach advisories.

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