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Every week from May through October our Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program tests 15 recreational hotspots for fecal pollution. On Wednesday, October 29, our team collected the last batch of water samples for 2014. This is an exciting time for us. We completed the second year of the program and our first full six-month sampling season!

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Over the next couple of months we’ll organize the newest data into our 2014 Recreational Water Quality Scorecard. Our goal is to have the scorecard available for you in early 2015 (see how your favorite waterways fared in our 2013 Recreational Water Quality Scorecard here). In the meantime, here’s a teaser of what we found in 2014:

15 sites monitored weekly
26 weeks of sample collection
390 samples available for collection
376 samples actually collected
96.4% completeness rate
7 samples missed due to Lady C maintenance
7 samples missed due to inclement weather
8 volunteers trained as Field Investigators
1,880 lines of data generated
24,196 MPN/100 mL – Highest sample reading
10 MPN/100 mL – Lowest sample reading
Charleston Harbor 2 (CofC Sailing) – Best overall performance
James Island Creek 2 – Worst overall performance

Keep in mind that these numbers are preliminary. All data produced by the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program adheres to our DHEC-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). This means we still need to vet the complete dataset to make sure it is top quality.

We verify our data on a weekly basis to ensure we’re keeping everything in order, but we do not stop there. At the end of the sampling season, we hand our data and records over to a third party for a line-by-line validation of the dataset. This process reviews our performance based on the guidelines established in our QAPP.

After all of the review cycles, we will submit our 2014 dataset to DHEC. The data will be used by DHEC to formulate the 303(d) list of impaired waters. This is a list of all waterways in the state that do not meet their water quality standards. The list is put out every two years, so our data from 2013 and 2014 will be used in developing the 2016 303(d) list.

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We all know the saying “more is better.” That’s certainly not the case with fecal pollution, but it is true of our data. The bacteria we monitor are highly variable in our waterways. The more data we examine, the better insight we’re able to develop about local water quality. In our 2014 scorecard we will examine our datasets from 2013 and 2014. That way you’ll get the best and highest quality information about swimability of your local waterways in our 2014 Recreational Water Quality Scorecard.

We look forward to taking the next couple of months to analyze our data and plan for the 2015 sampling season. As we work to expand the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program, it is important that we stop to express our sincerest gratitude to all that help make this program a reality. We want to give a huge thank you to all of our hard working volunteers! Thank you to our partners: College of Charleston’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences and Charleston City Marina. We also want to give a very special thanks to Charleston Community Sailing for loaning us a boat for the last several sample runs. Finally, thank you to all who continue to support the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program through your generous donations. We could not do this work without your support!

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