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

Press Statement from the Southern Environmental Law Center, Charleston Waterkeeper and Coastal Conservation League

For Immediate Release: 3/18/2020

Contact: Mike Mather, SELC Communications; cell/text (434) 333-9464;

Groups file lawsuit against Frontier Logistics over plastic pollution


After submitting the required notices, and without a satisfactory response from Frontier Logistics, SELC has filed a federal lawsuit against the plastic-pellet packager and shipper asserting that the company is responsible for ongoing pollution of the Charleston Harbor and other connected waters.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Charleston Waterkeeper and the Coastal Conservation League. The organizations are pursing federal remedies under the Clean Water Act and the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act for the discharges of plastic pellets into the Cooper River from the company’s operations at Union Pier.

SELC, the Waterkeeper, and the League made the decision to pursue this action because, as the lawsuit lays out, neither Frontier nor any enforcement agency has taken effective steps to end the pollution.

The Waterkeeper has conducted sampling since July of 2019, and has collected more than 14,000 pellets in area waters, with the highest concentrations consistently found closest to the Frontier facility. Large numbers of pellets remain in Charleston waters seven months after Frontier was first identified as the likely source of this pollution. A delay in taking legal action would also mean a delay in ending the pollution.

“We recognize there is considerable and warranted focus on the health crisis in South Carolina and elsewhere,” said Andrew Wunderley, the Charleston Waterkeeper. “At the same time, this unabated pollution of our waterways is a danger to the health of our rivers, marshes and wildlife. We had hoped Frontier Logistics would have taken the appropriate steps to remedy these violations; however, the company continues to deny responsibility. That, unfortunately, has left us no other avenue to pursue.”

The case filed in Charleston Federal Court is Charleston Waterkeeper, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League v. Frontier Logistics L.P.


Welcome to your March 2020 Keeper’s Report from your Charleston Waterkeeper! Things are a bit uncertain with all the coronavirus unknowns right now. But, one thing you don’t have to worry about is who’s keeping an eye on your waterways. We’re here, we’re not going anywhere, and we’re working for clean water today and always.

In this month’s Keeper’s Report, we’re talking eco-fashion, creek watching, taskforcing, and of course, those pesky little plastic pellets called nurdles. Not all in that order, or maybe in that order, you’ll have to read on.

Putting our boots where our mouth is

The 2020 Volunteer Corps season is off to great start with 8 events, 428 volunteers, and 1,046 service hours logged for clean water already this year! Together, we’ve planted cordgrass seedlings for marsh restoration, recycled and bagged oyster shells for new reefs, and cleaned up your marshes and creeks. Volunteers are great!

See for yourself: 

1/18 – West Ashley Marsh and Highway Cleanup
2/8 – Shell Bagging with SCDNR
2/22 – Filbin Creek Cleanup with Filbin Friends
2/27 – Seed Planing with SCDNR

Cleanups don’t plan themselves! Cheryl cuts up for a great eco-fashion who wore it better.

Nurdles rule or nurdle rules?

We’re still finding them everywhere, all the time. And, there still aren’t any rules in place to protect our waterways and beaches from plastic nurdle pollution. That’s bad for fish, it’s bad for birds, and it’s bad for clean water. Thank you to SC Sen. Sandy Senn for trying to get something done and give DHEC the clear authority to regulate nurdle packing and transporting! Unfortunately, the effort is running into some headwinds.

Read more about that in Sen Senn’s weekly update.

Or watch her go to bat for your waterways in the Senate. Scroll down to the Senate video on March 5. The good stuff starts about the 53-minute mark.

Stay tuned. Plastic nurdle pollution won’t stop itself . . .

Sen Sandy Senn in the SC Senate on March 5 going to bat for your waterways! Those nurdles she’s holding? They came from Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston.

Volunteer watches creek, does science

In February we trained up a fresh batch of Creek Watcher citizen-scientist volunteers. What’s a Creek Watcher? What are they watching for? What creeks are they watching? How are they doing it? Why are they doing it? We know you have a lot of questions about this very cool program, so hit the link below!

Learn more:

That’s excellent technique on the ole’ Winkler titration there, Daniel! Way to go, it’s not all that easy!

Up James Island Creek without a paddle?

But not for much longer! A big thank you to City of Charleston Councilwoman Carol Jackson for leading the charge to create the James Island Creek Taskforce. The Taskforce will guide the effort the clean up James Island Creek and make it safe for swimming. It will include members for the City of Charleston, Town of James Island, Charleston County, Charleston Water System, the James Island Public Service District, citizens, and conservation groups. This is a solid step in the right direction for James Island Creek.

James Island Creek is going on a bacteria diet, folks! More to come . . .

The room where it happens. Your City of Charleston City Council camber.

The next few days, weeks, months

We’re not sure what time will bring. But we do know this: the fight for clean, healthy water never stops. That’s why we’ll be here, on the front line standing up for you and your waterways until the job is done. We do this for you because you lift us up and empower action, every day, for clean water. Thank you and stay safe, friends.

The fight for clean water is not canceled . . . 

Get Involved


All the work you see here is empowered by our community and supporters just like you. Join the fight for clean water today:



SC wetlands—prized for habitat and flood buffer—lose protection under Trump water rule


Charleston Waterkeeper testing for fecal bacteria in local waterways

Owens OPED: Eliminating pollution in the Town of Mount Pleasant

Plastic bag bans mean ’strung out war’ in SC Statehouse as new towns pass restrictions


Wunderley OPED: Charleston has an opportunity to lead on balancing growth, environment

Failing septic systems foul SC homes and waterways, but solutions are costly

James Island waterway fails almost all bacteria tests for 5 years


Charleston Waterkeeper calls on SC health officials to rate Shem Creek more polluted

Lowcountry group pushes for DHEC to give Shem Creek stricter fecal bacteria standards

DHEC starts process of stricter fecal bacteria standards in Shem Creek, other saltwaters


SC reviews cleanliness rules for Charleston Harbor’s Shem Creek

No simple solutions for Gadsden Creek

Sullivan’s Island beach is strewn with tiny plastic pellets, and cleanup isn’t likely

Environmental experts concerend after plastic pellets wash up on Sullivan’s Island


Over 7000 gallons of raw sewage spilled form treatment plant into James Island Creek

Investigation: Enforcement and regulation of raw sewage spills

State senator calls for action after 7200 gallons of sewage spills into James Island Creek

Microplastic spill in Charleston Harbor prompts calls for stricter enforcement


Plastic pellets still in Charleston waters months after beach spill, environmentalists say

Local groups suing company over plastic pellets in Charleston waterways

Charleston Waterkeeper keeps finding more plastic pellets in waterway

As plastic pellets wash up on SC beaches, state should do more to stop it, lawyers say


National database ranks Charleston second-worst for plastic pellet pollution

Commentary: Sullivan’s Island fighting different kind of plastic pollution

Charleston utility rescinds help for small SC town’s sewer that contaminated oyster beds

Editorial: Hollywood needs to make sewer deal


All the work you see here is empowered by our community and supporters just like you. Join the fight for clean water today:

Two! And, it’s better than one! That’s why we have two fun ways for you to stand up and show up for clean water this Giving Tuesday:

Our friends at Free Fly make some great gear for on and off water. Today you can take 20% off your purchase with the code WATERKEEPER and Free Fly will donate that 20% to help keep your favorite waterway clean and healthy. Shop today for clean water:

Score some great gear from Free Fly and support clean water at the same time, or you can double up your impact with the Daniel Island Community Foundation.

The foundation will generously match your gift today–dollar for dollar–up to a goal of $5,000. That means when you give today, you can double the value and impact of your gift for clean water! Help us reach our goal today:

A great big thank you to the good folks at Free Fly and the Daniel Island Community Foundation. We cannot serve as your Waterkeeper without the support of our community.

Thank you for standing with us!

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Dirty nurdles, sewer geysers, and water quality standards

Welcome to your September 2019 Keeper’s Report! It’s been a busy several months here Charleston Waterkeeper and we’ve got a lot share. This month’s report links together a sewer geyser on James Island, little plastic pellets called nurdles on Sullivan’s Island, a better set of water quality standards for Shem Creek!

When is 5x More of a Bad Thing Good?

When it’s an outdated DHEC water quality standard meant to protect your health. Since the 1980s, DHEC has used two standards for recreational water quality. One allowed 5x more bacteria than the other. That’s just not right. Nobody should have to risk getting sick just to jump off a dock in Cove, swim at No-name Beach in harbor, or paddle in Clark Sound because of weak, outdated water quality standards.

Back in June, represented by our friends at the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, we petitioned DHEC to eliminate the weaker rule and update their standard. DHEC agreed. As the Post and Courier reports: “New rules for polluted Shem Creek?” Yes, please. Thank you.

A win for clean water and public health: we’re looking forward to seeing the upgraded water quality standard before the end of the year.


James Island’s Old Faithful

Last month a sewer line break sent a raw sewage geyser into the marsh surrounding James Island Creek. All told, 48,000 gallons shot into the creek. But, as Channel 2 NEWS reports, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 20 million gallons of sewage that spilled into local waterways and marshes since 2016.

Sewage authorities must do better–too often these spills are written off to severe weather and flooding. More importantly, DHEC has to get serious about enforcement. Since 2016 our review found only 5 sewer spill enforcement actions statewide with only one of those in Charleston County. That’s not good enough.

Sliver Lining: Charleston Water System and the James Island PSD are now part of the effort to clean up James Island Creek. We’ll make sure poop geysers a lot less regular than Old Faithful.

Nurdle Beach?

Nurdle watch. We need your help documenting pollution from plastic nurdles in our waterways after the big spill in July. Have you seen nurdles like those below in your creeks, rivers, or marshes? On your favorite beaches? Somebody’s been Misbehavin . . .

More from:

ABC News 4: DHEC says Frontier Logistics company behind plastic pellets on local beaches

Post and Courier Editorial Board: Hold Sullivan’s Island plastic ‘nurdle’ polluter accountable


Creek Watchers

Back in 2017 we quietly launched a project to engage citizens in monitoring their local tidal creeks and rivers. DHEC has yet to offer its Adopt-A-Stream program for coastal waterways. So we took action and built a program for you. Every month our Creek Watchers test water quality, count dolphin sitings, and document invasive algae species at 11 different sites. To date, they’ve tested more than 450 samples! All that data in information helps us keep an eye on the health of your waterways.

In Their Words:

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.

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.

Mike on testing water quality with his wife JoAnne: I love being a Creek Watcher because now I know that our marriage can survive the stress and strain of the dissolved oxygen test.

Thank you Creek Watchers!

Read More: Your Local Citizen-Scientists: Creek Watchers


When you’re out and about, find us at:

September 21: help make your creeks and marshes cleaner and healthier at Beach Sweep/River Sweep

October 5: get all your Charleston Waterkeeper gear and meet the team at the Charleston Farmers Market

October 10: meet the whole Waterkeeper team at Drink for the CAWS

October 26: like clean drinking water? Help us clean up the Goose Creek Reservoir

November 9: Revel on the River is back! Join us at Freehouse Brewery for some great music, food, and beer and help celebrate our 10 year anniversary serving as your Charleston Waterkeeper.

See y’all on the water soon! Don’t forget to follow all the action on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.