Report lists St. Simons & Jekyll beaches among filthiest in the nation

Beaches in America often unsafe for swimming, report finds

A Health Alert in Glynn County: a new report reveals their beaches are not as clean as one would hope.

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. – Glynn County is known for its beautiful beaches, but a new report reveals the water at some of those beaches may be unsafe for swimming. 

St. Simons Island Lighthouse beach and Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island were among 13 tested beach sites in Georgia and thousands across the country that were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one day last year, according to the report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group.

"Bacteria testing of ocean and Great Lakes beaches in every region of the country revealed days of
potentially unsafe fecal contamination in 2018," the report says.

Researchers studied 50 samples from the St. Simons Island Lighthouse beach and found six days -- more than any other site in the state -- when the water had bacteria levels exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Beachgoer Ted Lewis told News4Jax on Tuesday he does pay attention to water quality before he goes to the beach most of the time.

“We were are East Beach yesterday, but I didn’t look today, to be honest with you,” Lewis said.

Signs are posted at access points to let beachgoers know the current conditions. 

Another beach in Glynn County on the list, which many people go to for vacations and photo shoots, was Jekyll Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. Researchers said sampling was conducted on 46 days and on two of those days, the ocean water was deemed potentially unsafe.

“I could see a little brown over at Jekyll. I won’t get in it now when whitecaps are brown," beachgoer Chris Sool said. "That’s not a good sign."

The report comes as the Glynn County Health Department on Tuesday issued beach advisories for three Glynn County beaches, including the spots mentioned above, warning people to stay out of the water after samples found the level of enterococci bacteria, which increase the risk of gastrointestinal illness in swimmers, in the water at those beaches was above EPA standards. The health advisories were for the 5th Street Crossover Beach and South Beach at the Lighthouse, which stretch from Cedar Street to the pier on St. Simons Island, and Driftwood Beach, from beach kilometer marker 1 to Tallu Fish Lane on Jekyll Island.

The Health Department said Thursday that the areas advisories were lifted after more water samples showed the bacteria levels dropped below EPA standards. Visit for updated reports on water testing.

READ: Beach Water Advisory FAQs

Another big concern of beachgoers in the summer heat is flesh-eating bacteria that can lurk in our waters. This comes from a parasite in warm water. There have been no cases seen in Georgia, but five cases in Florida -- all on the Gulf Coast side of the state, where the bacteria has thrived for years because of year-round warm temperatures.

Here's what you can do to stay safe at the beach:

  • Shower before and after going into the water.
  • Properly care for all wounds.
  • Avoid the water if you have an open wound.
  • Check the water quality reports of your beach before arrival.

About the Author:

Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.