Yearly Archives: 2013

A quick update on the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program: on Wednesday, October 30, we pulled our last sample of the 2013 sampling season (don’t worry we’re already thinking about 2014).  Our goal for the season was to test 12 sites every week from July 10 through October 30 and publish the data so you could make informed choices about where you swim, SUP, kayak, and sail.  So, how did we do?  Check out 2013 by the numbers:

  • 12 sample sites tested weekly
  • 17 weeks of sample collection
  • 204 samples available for collection
  • 199 samples actually collected
  • 97.5% completeness rate
  • 3 samples missed because of Oct. 2013 Federal Government shutdown
  • 2 samples missed because of bad weather
  • 1014 MPN/100 mL highest sample tested
  • 10 MPN/100 mL lowest sample tested
  • 1020 lines of data generated

We enjoyed sharing the sample runs with you and hope you enjoyed easy access to the data via our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Swim Guide.

Next Steps

Now that 2013’s data is generated, we’ll begin the data validation process.  Data validation is a line-by-line examination of our dataset to ensure we’ve complied with our Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) and will determine the quality of our dataset.  After the dataset is validated it will be ready for analysis.

In early 2014 Charleston Waterkeeper will publish a water quality scorecard.  The scorecard will look back at the 2013 season’s data and examine how our sites did compared to South Carolina’s standard for safe water-based recreational activity.  The scorecard will also outline practices and activities you can engage in to protect and improve local water quality.  Stay tuned in January for more on our recreational water quality scorecard!

Another important data user is DHEC’s Water Quality Monitoring and Modeling Section.  DHEC will use our dataset to determine which waterways are impaired and which are healthy for its 2014 303(d) list.  This is an important designation for our local waterways because it determines where DHEC spends time, money, and resources developing and implementing waterway restoration plans.

Thank You!

A hugh thank you to our partners: the College of Charleston’s Masters of Environmental Studies Program, the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, and the City Marina.  We could not have done this work without you!

We are looking forward to planning for 2014 sampling season in January.  If you would like to get involved as a volunteer Field Investigator and are available Wednesday mornings (May to October) please get in touch with us at info [at] charlestonwaterkeeper [dot] org.  In the meantime, learn more about the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program and see data from past sample runs [here].

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is asking citizens to be on the lookout for illegal dumping of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to manholes and grease traps.  Citizens are urged to report suspicious activity to Crime Stoppers at 1 (864) 232-7463 or 911.  To report any other tips or information that may help identify those responsible for the illegal dumping, please contact DHEC’s 24-hour emergency response line at 1 (888) 481-0125.

In August three Upstate sewage treatment plants detected PCBs in their collection and treatment systems. After an investigation, DHEC, EPA, and the treatment plants determined PCBs were illegally discharged into area sewers via manholes and a restaurant grease trap.  This week, PCBs were found in Columbia area sewers and traced to another restaurant grease trap.  A grease trap collects and separates restaurant grease to prevent it from clogging sewers.

PCBs were banned by Congress in 1979 because they build up in the environment and cause adverse health effects in wildlife and humans.  PCBs are not commonly found in wastewater, sewers, or sewage treatment plants which discharge treated wastewater to local waterways.  Once inside a sewage treatment plant, PCBs are known to absorb into the sludge that settles out from wastewater during the treatment process.  According to DHEC, despite the illegal dumping, there has been no known discharge of PCBs to local waterways in the Upstate or the Columbia area.

Yesterday DHEC issued an emergency regulation requiring sewage treatment plants to test their sludge for the presence of PCBs.  The regulation also prohibits the land application of sludge with quantifiable levels of PCBs.

Charleston Waterkeeper applauds DHEC, EPA, and our local wastewater treatment authorities for working together to catch the perpetrators.  Let’s all pitch in and help stop this illegal activity before it impacts us here. If you see something suspicious near a manhole or grease trap, contact the Crime Stopper number above.  If you own, manage, or work at or near a restaurant with a grease trap, be extra vigilant.


More information:

DHEC’s September 25, 2013 press release

The State: “Industrial Poisons Found in Columbia Area Sewers

The State: “Columbia Warns of Illegal Dumping at Eatery Sites

Sewer Manhole:

Grease Trap:

The below article is a guest post from the College of Charleston Waterkeeper Club. Charleston Waterkeeper is incredibly proud of the many students involved with getting this club off the ground; we are eager to engage this passionate group of water warriors. The College of Charleston Waterkeeper Club will allow students an opportunity to become more aware of issues impacting Charleston’s waterways; it will also provide an outlet whereby the campus community can help play an active role in protecting Charleston’s waterways.

At the start of the 2013 spring semester, six College of Charleston students came together to establish the very first internationally recognized Waterkeeper Club on a college campus. As the club began to promote itself, eager students signed up to get involved with the club’s future activities.

On Saturday, September 21, 2013, six months after the College of Charleston Waterkeeper Club was established, the club hosted its first outing–a beach cleanup on Morris Island. The cleanup, sponsored by Teva as part of their “A pair for a foot” campaign, provided the club an opportunity to work with Charleston Waterkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, exposing nearly 30 students to the mission of the Waterkeeper movement.

Members from the College of Charleston Waterkeeper Club, bound for Morris Island, set sail at 9 AM aboard the Charleston Explorer. In honor of the last day of summer and International Coastal Cleanup Day, it only felt appropriate to leave Morris Island the way we found it in May–clean and free of trash.

Leaving from the Maritime Center, we made our way across Charleston Harbor, passing beautiful views of the Ravenel Bridge and Fort Sumter, and eventually arrived to Morris Island around 10 AM. This was the first time many club members had been out to the island. We arrived to Cummings Point in hopes of returning with trash and a feeling of accomplishment. We split into groups of two, collected our data cards, our gloves, two bags (one for trash and one for recycling), and walked the north end of the island. Along with the expected bottle caps, countless pieces of styrofoam and tiny remnants of plastics, we also encountered a remarkable amount of light bulbs, a massive metal signpost, cleaning products, and a handful of tar balls.


We covered nearly a mile’s worth of linear beach along the north end of Morris Island; after consolidating all trash and recyclables, we were left with four full bags of trash, one full bag of recyclables, and a number of awkwardly shaped items that would not fit into the bags.

We were honored to see the swells of volunteers show up to the docks to help us in our efforts. (Most college students rarely see the sun prior to 8 AM, so the attendance we witnessed was truly inspiring.) With the help of our volunteers, we completed a super successful beach sweep! It was a fantastic way to kick off the newly established College of Charleston Waterkeeper Club.

Our ongoing efforts are continually dedicated to our late friend Barker West, who we miss dearly. The day was no exception–we wore Barker’s initials over our hearts during the cleanup. His spirit and attitude will never be forgotten, and his efforts to help protect Charleston’s waterways will forever be the cornerstone of our club’s ambitions.

We’d like to extend a huge amount of gratitude to Teva for sponsoring the cleanup. Also, a heartfelt thank you to Maritime Center, Charleston Explorer, Starbucks, SC DNR, Sea Grant Consortium, Keep Charleston Beautiful, Cul2vate, and the team at Charleston Waterkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance for helping to make the day a success.

We’re looking forward to a successful school year!

– College of Charleston Waterkeeper Club

A while back, we posted a guest blog post about the Upper Inlet Creek Project written by Jillian Phillips. The project is a collaboration between Charleston Waterkeeper, Mount Pleasant Waterworks, the College of Charleston’s Masters of Environmental Studies Program, and Town of Mount Pleasant. View photo albums from the project’s sample runs here: March, April, May, June, July, August). Jill is a graduate student in MES Program and laboratory analyst at Mount Pleasant Waterworks. Here’s the latest update on the project from Jill:

The Upper Inlet Creek Project is well underway and we’re about halfway through our sampling. Generally speaking, fecal coliform test results show an increase in bacteria density after rain events, however enterococci results have been consistently low. We’ve also been running an optical brightener analysis as a proxy for the presence or absence of human bacteria contamination. So far these results show low concentrations of optical brighteners at all sampling locations. These are important considerations moving forward because they suggest stormwater as a possible source of bacteria contamination in Upper Inlet Creek.

During sampling events we’ve observed a variety of wildlife including egrets, herons, pelicans, and dolphins. Based on these observations we’ve decided to calculate a maximum daily load of fecal bacteria to Upper Inlet Creek. The loading estimate will be calculated using the volume of water present in Upper Inlet Creek and the average fecal matter bacteria densities of different types of wildlife (warm-blooded and cold-blooded).  This analysis will help provide insight into what bacteria results we should expect versus what we actually observed. This work will help refine our assumptions about the possible sources of impairment.

On each trip to Upper Inlet Creek we’ve also observed a variety of recreational activity including boating, fishing, and kayaking. The the importance Upper Inlet Creek’s water quality is evident from its frequent use by humans and wildlife. We’re looking forward to completing the data collection portion of the project and moving forward to the data analysis phase. We hope to suggest some possible remediation strategies to reduce fecal bacteria loadings to Upper Inlet Creek.



A big thanks to Jill for the update! Charleston Waterkeeper is proud to be a part of this collaboration and is looking forward to seeing the project come to fruition. In the meantime, stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook accounts for updates.

This weekend we all suffered a terrible loss with the passing of Franklin Barker West, a dear friend of Charleston Waterkeeper.

Barker, 18, was a sophomore at the College of Charleston and was an incredible supporter of Charleston Waterkeeper’s mission. He was an active volunteer, assisting most recently with last year’s Great Oyster Point Runoff and this year’s Water Ball. With a permanent smile on his face, Barker was always first to offer his time to help others.

We are all saddened by the news of Barker’s death and are reminded of how delicate life can be. Helping Charleston Waterkeeper was always a highlight for Barker; his positive energy and optimistic outlook serve as an inspiration for us all. We are so grateful that Barker came into our lives, and we will do what we can to honor his life and great spirit through our continued work.

We’ll miss you, Barker. Thanks for leaving such an indelible mark on this place and in all of our hearts.

– The Waterkeeper Team