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

Every year the Ocean Conservancy holds its “International Coastal Cleanup,” encouraging us all to spend a day to clean up our coastlines. On September 20, 2008 the SC Sea Grant Consortium and the SC Department of Natural Resources sponsored the 20th annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep in South Carolina. Last year nearly 6,000 dedicated volunteers showed up to pick up litter and trash along South Carolina’s beaches, rivers, marshes, and creeks. 57-tons of debris, covering 1,345 miles of environmentally sensitive areas were removed during last year’s event. Throughout Beach Sweep/River Sweep’s 19 year history, 942.5 tons of litter have been collected and recycled when possible.

This year Charleston Waterkeeper helped coordinate the Folly Beach cleanup effort. With almost 300 volunteers from across the state (and country) we had everyone from school teachers, to students, boy scouts and girl scouts, and local celebrities. Volunteers swept from the Folly Beach County Park to the lighthouse-end of the island. The top three “culprits” found were cigarettes (3,258), bottle caps/lids (803), and food wrappers (510). Other peculiar items found include: fireworks, cloth flower petals, dog poop in plastic bags, a half of a telephone pole, a 55-gallon drum, lawn chairs, tent stakes, an acrylic fingernail, a horseshoe, 15 diapers, parts of a surfboard, a bilge pump, and underwear. A breakdown of the top eleven objects found on Folly Beach can be seen in the chart below.

Volunteers braved high winds and chilly temperatures during this year’s event. We even had vacationers and passing walkers join in on the cleanup efforts once they saw all the participants cleaning up the beach. Thank you to everyone who took part in Beach Sweep/River Sweep 2008, especially those who came out to Folly Beach and the other sites in Charleston! We couldn’t have had such a great success without you. We hope to see you all next year.

I will leave you with a Gandhi quote that was truly put into practice by all of the selfless volunteers that came out to help during this year’s Beach Sweep…

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Beach Sweep

Last week the Waterkeeper Alliance Board of Directors approved Charleston Waterkeeper as the newest member of the Waterkeeper Family. Two other programs, the Choptank Riverkeeper in Maryland and the Loreto Baykeeper in Baja California Sur, Mexico were also approved. These new members bring the Waterkeeper Alliance total to 182 programs around the world.

We at Charleston Waterkeeper want to congratulate the other programs as we know first hand the hard work that has gone into the establishment of their organizations. The conversations I’ve had with individuals throughout the community have provided me with the advice, guidance, insight, and support needed to get this far. I want to thank everyone for all of their help over the past few months in making this program a reality…now, the fun (and work) really starts!

It’s OFFICIAL, there is a Charleston Waterkeeper!

I’ve come across two great articles detailing the problems we are facing in today’s ever-changing (and growing) world as water’s demand and in turn, its waste, is increasing rapidly. Both articles reveal an urgency to give attention to the issues surrounding our water supplies and how we use this delicate resource.

Scientific American explains in its article, “Facing the Freshwater Crisis,” that as populations increase, the demand for water is also increasing. This obvious relationship is often overlooked as we can take for granted the convenience of clean water for the use of “drinking, hygiene, sanitation, food production and industry.” However, unless governments (local, federal, and global) begin to shape policy around water conservation and water usage we could face devastating water shortages all over the world.

In a similar article, “Tossed Food Is Also Lost Water,” posted on the New York Times Dot Earth Blog, water is explained to be wasted indirectly throughout the world as food is wasted carelessly. “The amounts of waste are staggering. In the United States, nearly one-third of the food that is produced each year, worth about $48 billion, is discarded. The water it took to grow and process that wasted food amounts to about 10 trillion gallons, according to the analysis. Many European countries have similar losses, proportional to their size.”

Bo Petersen, reporter for the Post and Courier, has just written a great piece on the proposed Charleston Waterkeeper program, “Watching over the waters.” The article was published in Sunday’s paper (8/31/2008) on the front page of the “Local and State” section (B). Both Dean Naujoks, former Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, and Nancy Vinson, Program Director at Coastal Conservation League, offered great quotes in support of the endeavor. Thanks to everyone involved. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend.

Dean Naujoks, former Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, has just completed the site visit for the proposed Charleston Waterkeeper program. After 7 years as the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper (in Raleigh, NC), Dean has taken a position as the Waterkeeper Alliance’s southeastern representative.

The site visit is an essential part of the application process as it gives a Waterkeeper Alliance representative exposure to a proposed program. Despite flooding streets and torrential downpours, Friday’s site visit went off without a hitch. The massive amount of rain served as a blessing in disguise as it provided an opportunity to show Dean the incredible amount of flooding that occurs in downtown Charleston. We were able to see water gushing out of storm drains, resembling some of the fountains seen around the area. This serves as an obvious problem as all of the water backing up into our streets during heavy rains and high tides eventually drains into our rivers and harbor, carrying along with it anything that was in its way (gasoline, motor oil, chemicals, particulate matter, etc.). The EPA suggests that stormwater runoff is one of the primary causes of a degradation in water quality around the nation.

After a brief, but wet, tour of the peninsula and surrounding waterways Dean and I made a brief presentation at the county library. All those in attendance were able to hear Dean speak of his experiences as a Riverkeeper. There was a great amount of interest from those present at the meeting and I thank every one of you who came out to support.