DHEC starts process for stricter fecal bacteria standards in Shem Creek, other saltwaters
July 12th, 2019
By Wilson Beese, WCIV
SC Department of Environmental and Health Control will begin the process to increase the water quality standard for recreational saltwater throughout the state filed by Charleston Waterkeeper, according to a release from the organization and the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP).
The organization says it urged DHEC to impose more protective standards for enterococci bacteria in Shem Creek, Charleston Harbor as a whole, Folly River, Wappoo Creek, and more.
Enterococci are bacteria that show the presence of fecal waste, and can lead to illness and disease.
DHEC lawyers told the SCELP that it will “initiate action consistent with your petition,” said the proposed change is part of a larger water quality standard review, and plans to include the request in DHEC Board meeting in August.
“We applaud DHEC for acknowledging the need for water quality standards which are more protective of public health, and for taking steps to implement these more protective standards,” said Amy Armstrong, Executive Director of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project.
The current enterococci standard for Class SB waters is 501 MPN/100 mL/ HT e, which is five times more than the standard for class SA waters, even though both are used for recreation including paddling and swimming, the release said.
Charleston Waterkeeper and SCELP are seeking a Class SB water standard more consistent with the Class SA water standard of 104 MPN/100 mL. "Such a change would emphasize the severity of bacteria impairment in all coastal waters and highlight restoration priorities for regulators, dischargers, and the public."