Flooding in the Lowcountry…a Threat to Our Water Quality

We all know that Charleston is often referred to as the Lowcountry for its characteristically low lying coastal topography. This nickname though comes with some implications: we are more susceptible to damage from rising seas, storms, and flooding. The affects of flooding can be seen after every rain, especially during a high tide. It is not rare for streets downtown to become impassible, for storm drains to spew water in the opposite direction, and for the occasional kayaker to find herself paddling at the intersection of Church and Market Streets. Aside from the obvious nuisance flooding creates, there is an even more serious problem it creates…water pollution.

Stormwater (or percipitation in general) that does not soak into the ground runs over impervious surfaces (streets, roofs, cars, etc.) and makes its way downstream by way of a storm sewer system or more directly by running off into lakes, rivers, or estuaries. In its path, this stormwater collects chemicals and pollutants such as oil, gasoline, pesticides, and fertilizer. This is an obvious problem as it becomes a huge contributor to a degradation of our water quality. In Charleston especially, stormwater has an even longer opportunity to pick up pollutants and distribute them into our waterways. Beacause of the amount of flooding that occurs, water that would have otherwise run off a surface (and still collected a huge amount of pollutants), sits stagnant for a longer period of time thus becoming more and more contaminated.

After work yesterday I headed over to Vickery’s on Shem Creek and noticed some flooding in the parking lot that was pooring over from the adjacent marsh. What I saw was a bit disturbing. All of the trash and contaminants that were at one point moderatly contained within the parking lot had been collected by the flood waters and were now floating in our marsh. The video below shows the obvious debris that is picked up by flood waters and redistributed into our waterways…

The solution to this? Pick up your trash and be conscious of what might end up in our water after a heavy rain or a high tide…otherwise, stormwater runoff and flooding will pick it up for you. We all need to take part in protecting and preserving our most important and essential resource, our water.

Remember, take PRIDE, take RESPONSIBILITY, take ACTION.


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