Yearly Archives: 2013

Charleston Waterkeeper would like to reassure our supporters, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens of our continued commitment to protecting Charleston’s right to clean water.

This March, upon notification that our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status had been automatically revoked, Charleston Waterkeeper immediately began working with our legal counsel and CPA to correct the matter. The revocation occurred because we did not understand our obligation to file summary tax filings retroactively after our 501(c)(3) designation was granted in 2011.

We are confident that we are taking all necessary actions to remedy our oversight and are optimistic that our status as a tax-exempt organization will be reinstated. Until then, all donations to Charleston Waterkeeper will be tax-deductible under our fiscal sponsor, the Waterkeeper Alliance.

Charleston Waterkeeper continues to operate as an incorporated nonprofit organization, and while we work to resolve this issue, we remain focused on developing our programs and activities.

Last week, we began the readiness review phase of our Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program and expect to launch the full program soon. We have also been working with a number of key partners on a long-term study of bacteria levels in Upper Inlet Creek.

As part of our partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Clean Vessel Act Program, Charleston Waterkeeper has purchased a pumpout boat and will begin operating a Mobile Pumpout Program this summer. The boat, currently being readied for the program, will allow us to provide timely and convenient pumpout services to recreational boaters in need of emptying their holding tanks–tanks that may otherwise be discharged into our local waterways.

Our Permit Watchdog Program is currently screening 60 local permit holders for wastewater treatment performance issues. This program will also provide public comments on several permits that are up for reissuance as a result of the newly established dissolved oxygen limits for the Charleston Harbor.

We value your continued support, and know that while we work to resolve this issue, we continue to focus on protecting your right to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water.

Please do not hesitate to contact us directly with any additional questions or concerns.


After Tuesday’s heavy rains Sullivan’s Island experienced a sanitary sewer overflow, or SSO for short.  You can read more about it here.  A SSO occurs when raw sewage overflows the system of pipes and sewers designed to collect it and transport it to a sewage treatment plant.

EPA estimates that as many as 75,000 SSOs occur nationwide every year.  SSOs can occur for many reasons including: blockages, line brakes, vandalism, and inflow and infiltration or rainwater.  In the last 3 months 17 SSOs occurred in our watershed.  Check where they occurred here:

View Sanitary Sewer Overflows in a larger map

More than half of the SSOs in our watershed in the last 3 months were caused by inflow and infiltration of rainwater after heavy rain events.  Your local water and sewer authority should have a program designed to find and correct the defects that allow rainwater into the sewage collection system.  These programs cost a lot of money.  As a member of the community we encourage you to support these efforts because they help to protect our swimmable and harvestable waterways.

Today Charleston Waterkeeper officially kicked off a Readiness Review for our Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program. The program will regularly sample local tidal creeks and other areas frequently used for activities like swimming, stand up paddleboarding, sailing, and kayaking. Once operational the program will publish data every thursday so you can compare the results to South Carolina’s standards for safe swimming. In other words, we’re determining the “swimability” of our local waterways.


As part of our Readiness Review, over the next several weeks we’ll be sampling every Wednesday morning. The samples will be analyzed at the College of Charleston’s Hydrochemistry Research Laboratory. The Readiness Review allows our program staff, field investigators, and laboratory analysts to practice with the the quality control and quality assurance protocols we’ve implemented to ensure the program produces high quality data. Check out the pictures from today’s sample run over at Facebook.

The data produced during the Readiness Review is for our informational purposes only and it is not reliable enough to publish. Please stay turned to our website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you do, we promise you won’t miss it when we start publishing data.

Astute readers of our blog will recall that last fall we conducted a Pilot Study. Check out a few sample runs here, here, here, and here.  The Pilot Study helped us determine how to wisely allocate our time and resources to efficiently conduct the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program. During the winter and spring we focused our attention on developing a Quality Assurance Project Plan and a laboratory Quality Assurance Manual. Now that those documents are complete we’ve turned to the Readiness Review. The final step is launching the full program.

Charleston Waterkeeper is proud of the progress we’ve made and we are looking forward to providing you with high quality data about the “swimability” of many of our communities’ favorite local waterways. We could not do this work without the support of the College of Charleston’s Masters of Environmental Studies Program and the support of all of you. A big thank you from all of us here at Charleston Waterkeeper.

This is a guest blog post by Jillian Phillips.  Jill is a graduate student in the College of Charleston’s Masters of Environmental Studies Program.  Follow Jill on Twitter @jillmarie318.

Charleston Waterkeeper, the College of Charleston’s Masters of Environmental Studies Program, Mount Pleasant Waterworks, and the Town of Mount Pleasant have teamed up to investigate fecal contamination in Upper Inlet Creek.  Upper Inlet Creek is a tidal creek located between Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant above the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  The area is an important habitat for a variety of estuarine life and harbors many commercial and recreational shellfish beds.

DHEC’s water quality data indicate high levels of the fecal indicator bacteria fecal coliform bacteria are present in Upper Inlet Creek.  Accordingly, the creek is listed on South Carolina’s 303(d) list of impaired waterways.  DHEC is scheduled to develop and implement a total maximum daily load, or TMDL for short, for fecal coliform by 2016.  A TMDL is simply a plan to restore the water quality of Upper Inlet Creek.

Meanwhile, DHEC is working to transition fecal indicator bacteria from fecal coliform to Enterococcus.  Enterococcus is considered a better fecal indicator bacteria for marine waters because it survives better than fecal coliform. To help inform this transition, the Upper Inlet Creek Project will quantify bacterial water quality in the creek using both fecal coliform and Enterococcus.

Identifying sources of fecal contamination is often difficult.  Sources include stormwater, human inputs, and wildlife.  To help narrow down the long list of potential sources, the Upper Inlet Creek Project will employ an optical brightener analysis.  Optical brighteners are a component in most laundry detergents and can help differentiate between human and animal sources of fecal contamination.  Both the bacteriological and optical brightener analyses are being conducted at the water quality lab at Mount Pleasant Waterworks.

Our first sampling run took place in early March, aboard the Charleston Waterkeeper’s boat the Lady C.  We’ll sample once per month for an entire year in order to produce a comprehensive dataset.  We hope the data set will be used to make future water quality management decisions regarding Upper Inlet Creek and to ensure the health and quality of Charleston’s waterways.

A big thanks to Jill for posting this overview of the Upper Inlet Creek Project. Charleston Waterkeeper is proud to work with the College of Charleston’s Masters of Environmental Studies Program, Mount Pleasant Waterworks, and the Town of Mount Pleasant on this project.  Stay tuned to Charleston Waterkeeper’s  Twitter (using the hashtag #UIS) and Facebook accounts for updates and progress!