Category Archives: Advocacy
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We caught up with the founders of the inaugural Carolina Surf Film Festival, Bo Edmunds, Chad Davis & Chuck Gainey, to chat about their upcoming event, clean water and Charleston’s thriving surf scene.

Tell us a little bit about Carolina Surf Film Festival and why you chose Charleston for the inaugural event. 

Boasting over 600 miles of shoreline, the Carolina coast has long been a favored haunt of pirates, surfers, and dreamers. Situated near the center of this storied stretch of sand, Charleston, South Carolina is known for her colorful history, natural beauty, and thriving surf culture. We are pleased to announce Charleston as the home of the Carolina Surf Film Festival.

The opening night of the festival will include a short film, a feature film, and a dinner party to honor the filmmakers, patrons, and sponsors.  The remaining two nights will include live music, a full bar (featuring locally crafted beer by Westbrook Brewing Company), a food truck rodeo, vendor booths, an artist’s corner (with a live painting performance by celebrated artist Chris Kemp) and, of course, surf and water sports themed movies. Our distinguished panel of judges will screen the movies and award honors to winning entrants.  The Brickhouse Kitchen & Party Plantation on James Island is graciously hosting all three nights of the festival; October 16-18, 2014.

What is your connection to Charleston’s waterways? 

We’re happiest when we’re on the water.   Boating, fishing, paddling, surfing, we do whatever we can to be on or near it as much as we can.  We started the festival as a way to celebrate and thank the surfing community, and to increase public awareness of two non profits we greatly admire:  Charleston Waterkeeper and Surfer’s Healing.  By providing a forum at the festival and in our marketing campaign, we hope that both may reach a larger number of people.   Regarding Charleston Waterkeeper’s mission, we are keenly aware that in addition to reaching like minded people, i.e. water people, we also need to find a way to reach those who don’t spend as much time on the water.   The real challenge is getting the rest of the population to understand that water quality doesn’t just affect surfers and water sports enthusiasts.  Though the festival will draw mostly water people, we hope to create enough buzz around the event to reach those who may not be interested in surfing per se, but who love good food, music, art, etc.

Why is clean water important to the sport of surfing? 

It isn’t just important, it’s vital.  At its core, surfing is pure.  The act of riding a wave is clean and simple.  It takes you to a higher place.  By the way, few surfers have ever been able to describe the feelings riding a wave inspires;  I’ll spare you any further attempt and get to the heart of the matter:  Dirty water stinks!  It goes against the grain of what we stand for as surfers.  Clean water is important to surfing because dirty water is unacceptable.  My partners and I have a unique opportunity to do our part via the film festival.  As surfers and humans we feel a deep responsibility and obligation to insure clean water for future generations.

Visit www.CarolinaSurfFilmFestival.com to find out more information and purchase tickets to the 3 day event happening October 16th, 17th & 18th!

Water Ball 2012 Highlights from Charleston Waterkeeper on Vimeo.

Two weeks ago, the Charleston community came together to celebrate its fundamental right to clean water.  We are happy to report that Charleston Waterkeeper’s Third Annual Water Ball was our biggest, most successful event yet!

Water Ball 2012 had an estimated record attendance of over 400 people!  (Even an ominous thunderstorm couldn’t keep people away from enjoying their evening dedicated to clean water.)  The evening began under the tents on the riverside terrace as guests were greeted by a glass of LaBubbly champagne accompanied by a classical trio’s performance of Handel’s Water Music.  At 8PM guests entered the aquarium to enjoy food from local restaurants and drinks courtesy of New Belgium Brewing, Palmetto Distributing, and ICEBOX Bartending Services.

Thanks to the incredible support from our sponsors, attendees, volunteers, and friends, Water Ball 2012 raised over $15,000 for Charleston Waterkeeper this year!  These funds will go directly to support our permit watchdog program and our water quality monitoring program.  The goal with both initiatives is to gather baseline data that will allow us to identify water pollution issues and work towards pragmatic solutions.

The Water Machine returned to the Water Ball in a never before seen way.  Representing the need for us all to come together as a community to promote and maintain clean water, guests bought light bulbs throughout the night and showed our collective support of clean water.  Water Machine 3.0 raised $3,900 at Water Ball 2012 , and with the generous support of the Bishop Family Foundation in matching every light bulb bought, we raised in total $7,800 to support the permit watchdog program and our water quality monitoring program!


Our dedication to 100% waste diversion throughout the evening was also a resounding success.  Between the collective efforts of our vendors, guests, volunteers, and staff, Water Ball 2012 produced only one bag of trash, and we were able to divert 280 pounds of recyclable material from the landfill.

We’ve received an overwhelming level of praise from attendees, vendors, sponsors, and local media – with press features ranging from Charleston Magazine to Charleston Art Mag; fashionable Water Ball attendees were even featured in Ayoka Lucas’s Style Snaps.

The Twitpic team was on hand to guarantee that all those in attendance had a chance to channel their inner Waterkeeper in this year’s Twitpic photo booth.  For a full album of all photo booth images, click the photo below.

In addition, Jason A. Zwiker was on scene to capture the evening’s success…

 

And finally, this year’s event would not have been possible without the amazing group of sponsors, vendors, friends, and volunteers who came together to support the protection of Charleston’s waterways. Check out our full list of supporters here:

We are looking forward to another successful year and cannot wait to see you at Water Ball 2013.

This past Tuesday the Post and Courier ran an article titled “Cooper River in Charleston Among Worst for Carcinogens.”  The article states that more than 45,000 pounds of cancer-causing chemicals were released into the Cooper River in 2010 by local industrial facilities.  That 45,000 pounds made the Cooper River the sixth worst in the nation for such discharges.  It’s a striking headline that drastically underscores the need for Charleston Waterkeeper’s audit of all permitted dischargers in the Charleston Harbor Estuary–work we’ve been doing for the past year.

The article and report on which it’s based rely on data from the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.  The TRI was created as a public right-to-know program in the wake of the Bhopal, India disaster.  The Inventory requires industrial facilities that use certain toxic chemicals to report a yearly estimate of releases to the air, land, and water.  Release is defined broadly to include everything from accidental spills, to permitted discharges of treated wastewater, to transfers of toxic chemicals for proper off site disposal.  The self-reported release estimates are compiled into the Inventory and published to the public by the EPA.

The 2010 Inventory data is the most recent data available and for the first time notes the waterways receiving the release.  In the report Wasting our Waterways 2012 Environment America and Frontier Group looked at the Inventory data by receiving waters and cross referenced the type of chemicals released with California’s list of Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity.  They then ranked the waterways by total amount of cancer-causing chemicals received.  The Cooper River ranked sixth.

Inventory data is useful because it shows what type of chemicals were released and where.  But Inventory data also has limitations–it cannot determine the human health risk associated with exposure.  That type of determination requires an environmental exposure assessment, a much more complicated and in-depth study.  Inventory data also does not indicate whether the reported releases were in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

The fact is some or all of these releases may have been lawful.  In 1972 the federal Clean Water Act set the goal of eliminating the discharge of all pollutants to our nation’s waterways by 1987.  To reach that goal the CWA created a system of permitting point source discharges called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.  Although, the nation has fallen woefully short of this goal, it’s a goal we strive for at Charleston Waterkeeper.

The first step in ensuring 100% compliance with the laws on the books. Taking the first step requires knowing whether or not any of the releases violated the Clean Water Act.  That’s the critical question the Inventory data cannot answer.  But it’s exactly the question our point source discharge audit was designed to answer.

Several months ago we began by identifying all the permitted dischargers in our watershed.  There are approximately 113 permits authorizing the discharge of pollutants into our waterways. The permit holders generally fall into two categories: industrial facilities and sewage treatment plants.  Each has its own set of issues and their permits limit pollutants unique to their treatment processes.

We are currently developing compliance histories for each discharger, and class of dischargers, and are working to identify and document the issues impacting our right to fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.  Our data and research serves as our foundation as we develop solutions and address the issues we’ve documented.  What’s more, it also supports our role as a watchdog over permit holders and DHEC.  We do this work because each of us has a right to fish, swim, and enjoy our waterways without fear of pollution.

The Post and Courier ran a beautiful photograph by Wade Spees in today’s paper entitled, “River Respite.”  Here’s what they had to say about the shot…

Even though conditions weren’t really conducive to actually catching fish, James Echon stopped by the Ashley River ‘to wet a hook, watch the sun go down’ late Monday afternoon on his way home from work. ‘It’s serenity. This is basically what most fishermen do — regenerate.’

We couldn’t agree more!  In fact, one of our main priorities is to assure that the public continually celebrates its right to clean water.  If we continue to enjoy this amazing natural resource in a responsible manner – as a place to “regenerate,” as our office, as a playground – we are more likely to take pride and responsibility in protecting it.  So get on out there, and revel in our right to clean water!

We’re excited to share with you news about local Charleston native, J. Henry Fair.  Over the past few years, Fair has been documenting man’s impact on the environment through the eyes of his camera lens.  An acclaimed photographer who now lives and works in New York City, Fair is coming back home to Charleston to exhibit his most recent project, Industrial Scars, at the Gibbes Museum of Art.  The exhibit will show from December 16, 2010 until March 27, 2011.

Fair has worked extensively with Waterkeeper Alliance, NRDC, and other environmental organizations to shed light on the serious impacts of issues such as oil drilling, coal ash waste, and the recent BP oil disaster.

Follow J. Henry Fair on Twitter here.