On February 19, Charleston Waterkeeper attended an Environmental Response Committee Meeting at the United States Coast Guard Base, Sector Charleston. The meeting brought together environmental responders and other stakeholders from around South Carolina and bordering states.
Charleston Waterkeeper was one of the only non-profit organizations represented at the meeting. Moran Environmental Recovery, North Charleston Police Department, DHEC and of course, the Coast Guard were all among the attendees.
Much of the discussion at the committee meeting revolved around existing environmental response protocols and the possibility of improving on such standards.
One specific incident was cited as a positive example of a multi-agency response. In November of last year, 7,600 gallons of gasoline and 100 gallons of kerosene spilled into Filbin Creek from an overturned tanker truck. The pollutants were collected by a variety of methods including boom, oil skimmers, vacuum trucks and absorbent pads.
When responding to such an incident, it is essential to prioritize risk. Agencies present on the scene agreed that prioritization was to be given to the protection of human life. As a result, a chemical foam called AFFF was used to quickly knockdown combustible vapors rising from the spill. Synthetic AFFF foam is recommended to diminish the risk of combustion from a spill’s vapors; however, this chemical is incredibly harmful to ecological life.
Alternative options are available to environmental responders, yet each contractor is victim to the methods approved by the state of South Carolina.
Additional topics at the committee meeting included the explanation of South Carolina’s recent Derelict Vessel Law. This law, which applies to any watercraft left unattended for 45 days, delegates the removal abandoned vessels to local municipalities. In an initial search, authorities identified over 150 abandoned vessels within Region 4 of South Carolina. 60% of these vessels were found in Charleston County.