Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to lately.

In late 2017, Charleston Waterkeeper initiated a project to engage citizens in monitoring their local tidal creeks and rivers. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) offers an Adopt-A-Stream program for inland folks, but nothing for us here on the coast. Charleston Waterkeeper changed that.

Carl Cole getting ready to sample (photo credits: Outpost)

Carl Cole getting ready to sample (photo credits: Outpost)

One year ago, in June 2018, the first group of citizen scientists were trained and certified to monitor our waterways. The first certified sample was taken on July 11, 2018. In honor of this anniversary, we want to take the opportunity to highlight all of the hard work they are doing!

Every month our Creek Watchers go out to their assigned site and collect ambient surface water quality data.  This includes recording visual data as well as physical data: temperature, pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.

Mike and JoAnne Marcell at Northbridge Park

Mike and JoAnne Marcell at Northbridge Park

JoAnne “I love being a creek watcher because I enjoy being on the water in the sun and breeze while also contributing to the assessment of our water quality as a citizen scientist.”

Mike  “I love being a Creek Watcher because now I know that our marriage can survive the stress and strain of the dissolved oxygen test.”

If there is any litter in sight, they are sure to collect it. One Creek Watcher noticed that her site was too bad to make a difference on her own, so a clean-up was organized that brought out many volunteers who made the site litter-free.

Katherine Freligh at the Public Boat Landing on Virginia Ave

Katherine “I love being a Creek Watcher because we feel like we are contributing to the mission to keep our waterways safe for our community and the animals that live in them. “

Creek Watchers are not only testing the quality of the water, but are also water watchdogs and advocates for cleaner waterways.

Tony tells us “…the interest and support that people we encounter in the field express for what we are doing…They ask questions. They really care about the environment and are glad that there are people like us out there keeping an eye on things.“

Tony Brown recording visual observations When Cris Sumpter is not taking samples, you can often find the two of them at many Volunteer events

Tony Brown recording visual observations. When Cris Sumpter is not out analyzing, one can often find him and Tony at many volunteer events

Tony “I love being a Creek Watcher because I am doing real-time science as part of an organization looking out for the health and well-being of these magical marshlands that make up the cradle of the sea.”

Getting together on Wappo Creek! From left to right: Skip Darley, Cris, Tony, Carl McCoy, Abby Boyer

Getting together on Wappo Creek! From left to right: Skip Darley, Cris, Tony, Carl McCoy, Abby Boyer

Carl M. “I love South Carolina! Having been born and raised here, I want to see beautiful ecosystems continue to provide protection, habitat, and recreation that we all enjoy.”

There are currently 13 certified Creek Watchers, monitoring 11 sites. Over the past year, they have dedicated 260 hours of their time, resulting in 445 samples collected and analyzed.

11 Sites Actively Monitored

To learn more about the Creek Watcher program visit: or email

Petition Aims to Improve SC Recreational Water Quality Standards 

Charleston Waterkeeper seeks to amend outdated recreational saltwater quality guidelines to speed cleanup of waterbodies impaired by high bacteria levels and better protect public health.

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2019 — Today, Charleston Waterkeeper urged South Carolina regulators to implement a more stringent bacteria standard for a class of recreational saltwaters in order to protect public health and shared natural resources.

Specifically, the group petitioned the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control to begin the process of imposing a more protective standard for enterococci—bacteria that indicate the presence of fecal waste and disease-causing pathogens in water.  The current standard for Class SB waters, including Shem Creek in Charleston, is 501 MPN/100 mL. The Charleston Waterkeeper is asking that the more protective Class SA 104 MPN/100 mL standard be used for these recreational saltwaters.

The petition—filed on behalf of the Charleston Waterkeeper by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP)—stems from Waterkeeper’s work in testing and improving the water quality of Shem Creek, one of Charleston County’s most popular tidal creeks that’s used for fishing, paddling, swimming, and other recreational uses. Shem Creek’s Class SB water quality designation is significantly less protective than Class SA, despite prolific recreational uses of Shem Creek and other Class SB waters throughout the state.

Since 2013, Charleston Waterkeeper has tested more than 380 samples from three distinct locations in Shem Creek, and their results consistently show extreme excess of acceptable levels of enterococci. On average, Shem Creek’s enterococci count is 830 MPN/100 mL, nearly twice the Class SB standard of 501 MPN/100 mL, and eight times the Class SA standard of 104 MPN/100 mL.

The state’s current standard for Class SB waters appears to be based on outdated guidelines from the EPA’s 1986 recreational water quality criteria and severely underestimates the extent of the water quality problem in Shem Creek and all other Class SB waters. Applying a new standard of 104 MPN/100 mL to Class SB waters would emphasize the severity of bacteria impairment in all coastal waters and highlight restoration priorities for regulators, dischargers, and the public.

The Waterkeeper seeks this rule change in order to have a consistent recreational standard across all saltwater quality classifications, to comply with current scientific findings, and to address societal concerns and community expectations.

“We shouldn’t have to risk getting ear, eye, and skin infections or gastroenteritis just to go swimming in a local creek,” said the nonprofit’s Executive Director & Waterkeeper Andrew Wunderley. “State regulators and local communities can’t hide behind outdated standards that minimize the health risks and maintain the status quo. We need strong protections from the state and bold action by our local communities to make all our creeks and rivers safe for swimming. We have the data, we know there is a problem, the time to act is now.”

“The public has a right to recreate in our state’s saltwaters, and they should be able to do so without significant health risks posed by poor water quality,” according to SCELP Executive Director Amy Armstrong. “We are asking the state to step up and protect its citizens from excessive bacteria currently allowed under the Class SB standard.”

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) protects the natural environment of South Carolina by providing legal services and advice to environmental organizations and concerned citizens and by improving the state’s system of environmental regulation.

Charleston Waterkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore Charleston’s Waterways for our community and for future generations. We do that through unique mix of boots-on-the-water stewardship and data-driven advocacy designed to protect the public’s right to clean water for fishing and swimming. 

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Mayors, Instagram Influencers, and Fake Plastic Trees

Welcome to your April 2019 Keeper’s Report from your Charleston Waterkeeper! This month we weave together a few local mayors, an Instagram influencer or two, and Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees. And, we do it all for clean water. Read on to find out how (or if) we’ll pull it off . . .

Ban on bans

Bad news: on April 4 the ban on bans got a favorable report in subcommittee. It still has to go through the full Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee, and then get an up or down vote on the Senate floor all before Wednesday, April 10th. That’s an uphill climb, but we’re not out of the woods yet—contact your Senator today and ask them to oppose the ban on bans!

Post and Courier: Plastic bag bans survive–for now–as SC lawmakers take more study time

Meanwhile, in local news, Publix, Harris Teeter, and Walmart are all ready to comply ahead of the April 16 deadline when the Town of Mount Pleasant’s ban takes effect. That’s great news! And, it goes a long way toward making your rivers and creeks cleaner and healthier.

Post and Courier: Publix, Harris Teeter grocers go plastic-less ahead of Mount Pleasant plastic bag ban


Floodwater is polluted water

BREAKING: the greater Charleston area is growing. Acre by acre, development is re-plumbing the Lowcountry with ponds, pipes, and outfalls. We see the consequences of that every day—flooding, contaminated fish, plastic pollution, closed oyster beds, and unsafe water quality after rainstorms. More on that in:

Yale Environment 360: As high-tide flooding worsens, more pollution is washing into the sea

Post and Courier: Charleston floodwaters are crawling with unsafe levels of poop bacteria

Our rivers and harbor are speaking to us, folks. The only question is: will we listen?

Love a local mayor!

On March 20 Mayor Tecklenberg, Mayor Haynie, Councilman Owens, Mayor Goodwin, and Mayor Carroll all made the trip to Columbia to testify against the ban on bans and stand up for you and your waterways. Any way you slice it, that’s awesome! We are very proud of these guys and you should be too. Say thank you the next time you see them around town (or hit the links above)!


Roast like a pro

Oyster roast season is almost over. But, there’s still time to learn to roast like a local! Beer cans, oysters knives, hot sauce bottles, swag, saltine wrappers, and plastic condiment cups don’t go in the oyster barrel. Shell only. DNR staffers and volunteers have to separate all that trash from the shell before it can be recycled back into your waterways to make new oysters and new habitat. Help ‘em out!

Boots on the water: see what it’s like to build an oyster reef with 600 bags of clean shell

The Real World

If you’re like us, you get tired of Instagram influencers, orange tiles, and cheese sandwiches. We prefer real people doing real things in the real world. So let’s put down our keyboards and phones and get together:

4/8 CultivateSciArt: make some art and learn from our scientist Cheryl Carmack about why Charleston is a #1 city with #2 problems.

4/9 The Devil We Know: this film will open your eyes to a class of chemicals that’s in our local dolphins and in each one of us. Don’t miss this screening with the College of Charleston’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, the Masters of Environmental Studies Program, and Office of Sustainability.

4/11 Drink for the CAWS with Cooper River Brewing Company: come grab a beer, meet your hard working Charleston Waterkeeper team and let’s talk clean water.

4/13 & 4/14 High Water Festival: stop by our tent and say hello! We’ll have lots of great gear to support the CAWS, a fun surprise, and of course, plenty of #tipsforcleanwater!

4/22 Earth Day Cleanup with Free Fly: don’t just like a few Earth Day posts, get outside and do something good for you waterways!

4/27 Ashley River Cleanup with Magnolia Plantation and Gardens: this cleanup is in a very special section of the Ashley River that needs some love. Join us and our friends at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens to help restore this historic section of river!


Fake Plastic Trees!

We found Thom Yorke’s fake plastic tree in Filbin Creek! We’re still missing his shopping cart though. No wait, we found that in our last Filbin Creek cleanup! Goofiness aside, a huge thank you to Rheos for sponsoring our 2019 Kickoff to Spring Clean in Filbin Creek at Hendricks Park (they make floating sunglasses, no, really, check ’em out). Forty-five volunteers braved the cold on the first day of Spring to make a big impact for clean water. Filbin Creek didn’t disappoint—we removed almost 1 ton of debris in under two hours!

Click here: cool pictures of happy and hard-working volunteers

Big thank you to Toadfish Outfitters, Flood Tide Co., Carolina Surf Brand, Healthy Human, and Yoloha Yoga Factory for all the great gear donated for our raffle! Interested in sponsoring a cleanup, water quality testing, marine pumpouts, or other Charleston Waterkeeper program?

Let’s talk:

That’s a wrap, folks . . .

Make sure you’re following all the action as we fight for cleaner, healthier waterways for your community: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Ready to upgrade? Hit the following link and become a supporter today!

Truth, Chickens, and Sporobolus

Welcome to your March 2019 Keeper’s Report from Charleston Waterkeeper! This past month we learned the chickens really are in charge, Spartina is Sporobolus, and, unlike Mark Twain, plastic lobbyists always have to remember what they said. Jump in and find out why . . .

Truth be told!

The ban on bans was up for an important subcommittee hearing in the SC Senate last week. The room was so packed the subcommittee didn’t get through all the testimony. Your Waterkeeper didn’t get to testify, but don’t worry he’ll be back in Columbia on March 20 to tell the truth about what’s in, what’s out, and why. Be sure to send a thank you to Mayor Haynie and Mayor Carroll for making the trip and standing up for your waterways!

Make your voice heard: Ask the Regulatory & Local Government to oppose the ban on bans

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Free pollution

Plastic pollution is everywhere from the drinking water at the Statehouse in Columbia to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Yet the lobbyists claim local plastic bans are “out of control” and create a confusing patchwork for consumers and businesses. Don’t be distracted. They just want to pollute for free. What’s really at stake is who should bear the cost of plastic pollution. Should it be the manufacturers that profit from it or the communities left to deal with the consequences?

Take action: Ask your SC Senator to oppose the ban on bans

Stono River Blues

If you leave the chickens in charge things get done! A couple of James Island chickens supervised the Number 2’s haul out, fuel pump repair, and bottom scrape. She’s safely back at City Marina and ready to resume providing marine pumpouts to keep your waterways poop free. We’re glad the Number 2 is running again. Thank you for bearing with us as we got her fuel issues sorted out!

Bottom line: Chicken’s are helpful, but boats are expensive. Help keep your waterways poop free by making a donation today.

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Sporobolus Street?

Apparently, our beloved Spartina salt marsh grass isn’t really Spartina at all. It’s actually a different species all together called Sporobolus. Sporobolus!?!? We’ll need to rename a lot of neighborhoods, dental offices, and lifestyle brands now. Let’s just hope they don’t come for our palmetto trees next. Then we’re in real trouble.

Simply put: Spartina Forever!

DNR record

A few weeks ago 87 Charleston Waterkeeper volunteers bagged 1,730 bags of oyster shell and planted 2,030 Spartina (not Sporobolus) seedlings in 2 hours. Those 1,730 bags set a DNR SCORE program record! Thanks to Dylan Schmitz (@dylanschmitz) for documenting!

Check it: Saturday, Feb 23 Shell Bagging

Join us and help put ‘em back:

No excuses!

We hustle hard for your rivers and creeks, in, on, and out of the water, so it can be tough to nail us down. If you’re gonna try here’s where to find us in March:

3/9 Ashley River Cleanup

Don’t miss this epic cleanup on your Waterkeeper’s favorite stretch of the Ashley River. We’ve partnered up with a great group including Summerville Saltwater Anglers, Dorchester County, Lowcountry Land Trust, American Rivers, and Keep Dorchester County Beautiful. The Ashley will be in a lot better shape when we’re done!

3/9 McKevlin’s Spring Surf Social

Get stoked! Our friends and McKevlin’s are hosting the Spring Surf Social with a Bing surfboard raffle to help support clean water! Grab some gumbo, meet local shapers from Grasshopper, Hoke Surfboards, and Paul Martin Surfboards, drink a Revelry beer, and swap some surf gear. Your Waterkeeper will also be on hand to talk story. Guaranteed good time!


3/13 Shell Sorting with DNR

That hole in the oyster roast table isn’t for trash. It’s for recycling oyster shells. Tell your friends! Until we all get the hang of it we’re helping DNR remove trash and debris from recycled shell so it doesn’t end up in your rivers and creeks.

3/14 Protect your Wetlands at Drink for the CAWS

Like wetlands? Hate seeing them destroyed and lost forever? Come out to Holy City Brewing for a chance to tell the EPA and the Trump Administration what you think of their effort to strip longstanding protections from Carolina Bays and Cypress Ponds. Your Waterkeeper and our friends at Southern Environmental Law Center will be on hand to help you speak up for clean water! #standup #showup #notonourwatch

3/16 Oyster Reef Construction with DNR SCORE

We’ve produced more than 3,500 bags of shell so far this year! Now it’s time to start putting it to work by getting it all into the water to start growing new oysters. Many hands make light work when building oyster reefs. You’ll like this one, we promise!

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3/20 Rheos presents: 2019 Kickoff Spring Clean

Join Rheos gear and Charleston Waterkeeper for a cleanup at Hendrick’s Park in North Charleston. Never heard of Hendrick’s Park? Come on out and help us clean it up. You’ll be glad you did. Afterwards, join us for a beer with our friends at Revelry Brewing!

3/30 Wando River Marsh Cleanup with Keep Charleston Beautiful

We’ve been after this spot for a while now. We’re glad the stars have aligned with our friends at Keep Charleston Beautiful. Now if the weather just holds out this time . . . .

Until next time . . .

Don’t miss the fun. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or better yet come out and meet us in the real world.

Poop, Plastic Lobbyists, Oyster Shells

Welcome to your January 2019 Keeper’s Report from Charleston Waterkeeper! After a hiatus in 2018, the Keeper’s Report is back in a fresh new format. Pollution doesn’t sleep so neither do we. Buckle up, we’ve had a lot of coffee . . .

They’re Back!

The ban on bans is back in your South Carolina General Assembly. It’s the same DC think-tank bill plastic lobbyists push in states all over the country. After failing the last 3 years to pass it here, it’s back again, and this time it doesn’t grandfather in local bans already in place. That might be fine up in DC but it’s not right for our local communities. We stand with Charleston, Mount Pleasant, James Island, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, and Sullivan’s Island.

Act Now: Ask your SC Senator to do the same and oppose bill S.394.

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Hollywood digests sewer deal

This month Charleston Water System proposed a plan to help Hollywood get out from under its failing sewer system. After years of neglect and small spills, Hollywood spilled 10 million gallons of sewage into the Stono River last January. The spill shut down oyster harvesting from the Harbor to the North Edisto River. Since then, we’ve tracked this issue very closely to ensure Hollywood sewer problems get fixed and stay fixed.

Brass tacks: The CWS plan is a good deal for the Town of Hollywood, it’s citizens, your Stono River, and local oystermen.

Volunteer gets dirty, likes it

Cooler weather means it’s Volunteer Corp time! We’re putting folks just like you in the marsh and knee deep in mud for clean water. It’s a lot of fun! You should join for a volunteer event (or five). Still not sure the Volunteer Corp is for you? See what you’re missing:

Oyster bagging with DNR’s SCORE program and Lowcountry Land Trust

Oyster shell recycling at the Lowcountry Oyster Festival with Coastal Conservation Association and Lowcountry Land Trust

Get wet and muddy: sign up for a volunteer event today

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If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck . . .

And it quacks like a duck, it’s probably in a local wetland that could lose protection under the EPA’s effort to gut the established definition of “Waters of the United States.” There’s a lot political rhetoric around this one–don’t get distracted. Underneath it all, it’s a bad idea for our waterways. Estimates show that up to 70% of South Carolina’s wetlands could lose protection. With no state or local protections in place, it would make it much easier to destroy these special places forever.

Soggy feet: We set up a visit to local cypress/tupelo pond to show the Post and Courier just what’s at stake if this bad idea moves forward.

Abandoned boats at half mast

Abandoned boats plague our harbor, rivers, and creeks. They’re eyesores and they damage salt marsh and oyster bed habitat. Last year we worked on a few tweaks to South Carolina’s laws governing abandoned boats. Now local Representative Peter McCoy reintroduced a bill that will give local law enforcement more authority to take on the problem when the state fails or declines to act.

Bottom line: It’s a great idea and one we fully support! Now we need a few funding sources . . .

Opinion: from the Post and Courier’s Editorial Board last year “We have to do something about abandoned boats.”


Lets get social for real

Likes, hearts, reactions, clicks, emails, scroll . . . blah, blah, blah. Let’s grab a beer and meet in the real world at a Drink for the CAWS event:

2/7 Ghost Monkey Brewery

3/14 Holy City Brewery with Southern Environmental Law Center

4/11 Cooper River Brewing Company

5/9 Munkle Brewing Company

6/13 Charles Towne Fermentory

Don’t miss out: add Drink for the CAWS to your calendar

For your eyeballs: come see Charleston Waterkeeper (and a bunch of great outdoor films) at MountainFilm in February.

THANK YOU to Blue Ion and Groundswell PR for hosting a screening of Patagonia’s film Blue Heart to benefit our work! Key take away: “You don’t need to be a Waterkeeper to take care of your favorite river. You just need to be a human with a voice.”

There’s always a lot happening at Charleston Waterkeeper! Don’t miss the fun. Make sure you stay up-to-date by following on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.