Category Archives: Recreational Activity

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.


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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The Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program completed its 13th week of sampling last week. That means we are halfway through the 2014 monitoring season! It’s a good time to stop and take a look back at what we’ve accomplished so far. Here is (half of) the 2014 sampling season by the numbers:

15 sample sites tested weekly
13 weeks of sample collection
195 samples available for collection
188 samples actually collected
7 missed samples (Lady C maintenance & staffing)
97% completeness rate
940 lines of data generated
24 samples exceeded South Carolina’s standard safe swimming
2046 MPN/100 mL highest sample tested
10 MPN/100 mL lowest sample tested
Charleston Harbor 1 (Melton Peter Demetre Park) – Best overall performance
Shem Creek 3 – Worst overall performance

A few things have changed since our wrap up blog post at the end of the 2013 sampling season. First, we added 3 new monitoring sites this year. One site is in Wappoo Creek and the other two are in Hobcaw Creek. See all of our sampling sites here. Second, we began our monitoring season on May 1 this year and will collect nine more weeks of data than we did in 2013. More data gives you more information about how safe your waterways are for swimming and us a better picture of what is happening in the water.

Finally, overall, bacteria concentrations have been lower this year than last year. This is likely a result of less rainfall: we began monitoring in May, but last year we started in July (July, August, and September are on average the wettest months). Remember stormwater runoff picks up pet and wildlife waste and the pathogens they can harbor and discharges it into our waterways making them unfit for swimming. Please pick up after your cat or dog. Our research with the Upper Inlet Creek Project shows that up to 40% of the bacteria in a suburban tidal creek may be from domestic pets.

Taking a closer look at our 2014 data, we can already start to see some trends. James Island Creek 2 and Shem Creek 3 continue to show high readings just like last year.  But, some other sites that may be impaired are slipping under the weekly radar. That’s because South Carolina uses a two part water quality standard to determine if waters are “swimmable”.

The first part screens for acute water quality issues and holds that if a single sample exceeds 104 MPN/100 mL the site is unsafe for swimming. This is what we use to report results on a weekly basis. The second part screens for chronic water quality issues over time and holds that if the geometric mean of all samples from a month exceeds 35 MPN/100 mL the site is unsafe for swimming. This is what we use to produce our Recreational Water Quality Scorecard. DHEC also uses this standard to determine if a site is impaired for swimming.

What does this all mean? Some sites that appear to be doing well based on single sample readings may still have long term problems. Sites we are keeping a close eye on:

James Island Creek 1
Shem Creek 1 (Shem Creek Park Public Dock)
Shem Creek 2 (Mill St Public Boat Landing)
Ashley River 2 (Brittlebank Park)
Charleston Harbor 3 (Battery Beach)
Hobcaw Creek 2

You can always find the latest water quality conditions on our website and on Swim Guide. Be sure to keep up with the latest information about the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! We regularly post about current water quality conditions to help you stay informed!

Finally, we want to give a big THANK YOU to the folks that help keep this program running smoothly! Many thanks to our dedicated team of Field Investigators, Dr. Vijay M. Vulava – Director of the Hydrochemistry Research Lab in the College of Charleston’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, and City Marina.

The Runaway, an abandoned boat, has finally been removed from the Ashley River. According to The Post and Courier, there are at least  fifteen remaining abandoned boats in the Ashley river, but there is currently not enough funding to quickly remove the boats. We are thankful, however, that this one eyesore has been successfully removed. Continue to check back with us for more news on abandoned boat removal from Charleston’s waterways.

Photo Courtesy of Charleston City Marina

Photo Courtesy of Charleston City Marina

A public meeting was held last week by DHEC/OCRM to hear opinions related to the proposed expansion of the Charleston City Marina’s Mega-Dock in the Ashley River. The City Marina has requested a permit to “relocate and modify the existing marina, realign the centerline of the functioning navigational channel, reconfigure an existing mooring field, and add new bridge fenders on the James Island Expressway Bridge in the Ashley River.”

The proposed project essentially involves adding about 136 new slips, many ranging in size from 60 to 80 feet, primarily to accommodate large vessels like yachts. This work will require the relocation the existing transient dock ~150 feet towards the navigational channel in the Ashley River, and relocating the adjacent public mooring field.

A representative from Charleston Waterkeeper was among the roughly 75 in attendance. Only 14 stepped up to express their opinion on the project: 7 opposed, 6 supported, 1 was neutral (the Coastal Conservation League).

The large majority of statements in favor of the project were based on the expected economic benefits resulting from the mega dock expansion. One yacht manager listed weekly expenses incurred by his mega yacht and 25 man crew (including $30k in fuel). Several supporters had businesses based around marina services, or were owners or managers of large yachts themselves. A representative from the Charleston Business Bureau cited water access as one of the top five attractions for tourism in Charleston. One supporter said that the Beach Co. has an excellent environmental track record, and will do a good job on the project.

The opposing statements made quite a variety of points, ranging from infringing on the existing channel, further impedance of sediment transport in the Ashley, contaminated sediment, the failure of City Marina to maintain their existing facilities and dredging while wanting to expand further, the lack of public boat ramps and water access near downtown, actual demand for more dock space by ‘mega yachts,’ concerns about the average citizen having meaningful access to the “City” marina (high parking fees, no ramps, poor dredging etc.), congestion problems in the new channel, reduced quality of the overall boating experience, reduction of anchorage space in the existing mooring area, blocking of scenic views of the Ashley, concerns of increased sewage discharge in the already impaired Ashley River, and further limiting access to the Charleston Yacht Club (next door).

While expressing concerns about the environmental impacts, Nancy Vinson of the CCL said that it “was an appropriate area to expand,” compared to more sensitive estuarine areas further upriver, or in small creeks, etc.

The meeting was civil and only lasted about 45 minutes. Tess Trumball, project manager for DHEC/OCRM moderated.

Post by Andy Lassiter – As a candidate for his Masters Degree, Andy is finishing up at the College of Charleston’s Masters of Environmental Studies Program.  He has been helping Charleston Waterkeeper as an intern with an ongoing study to test the impacts of copper and copper-based bottom paints on Charleston’s waterways.

Charleston Waterkeeper will be submitting official comments to DHEC and to City Marina before the comment period ends on March 5, 2010. The comments will include a list of recommendations to both parties to assure the highest level of environmental consideration and protection. We will post these recommendations as soon as we complete them.