11 Charleston waterways with high levels of fecal fecal bacteria


Authorities with Charleston Waterkeeper reported on Friday afternoon that 11 waterways have high levels of fecal bacteria.

The organization said swimming is not recommended in the following areas: 

  • Lower Ashley 
  • Battery Beach
  • Demetre Park 
  • Lower Hobcaw Creek
  • James Island Creek
  • Near Patriots Point
  • Shem Creek
  • Wappoo Cut

The organization also released a specific site list of the areas affected. 

  • Ashley River 1 (Charleston Community Sailing) 
  • Ashley River 2 (Brittlebank Park) 
  • Charleston Harbor 1 (Melton Peter Demetre Park) 
  • Charleston Harbor 2 (CoFC Sailing) 
  • James Island Creek 1 
  • James Island Creek 2
  • Shem Creek 1 (Shem Creek Park Public Dock)
  • Shem Creek 2 (Mill St. Public Boat Landing) 
  • Shem Creek 3 
  • Hobcaw Creek 1
  • Wapoo Cut 1 

"It’s not all bad though, new SC DHEC beach data for Folly, Sullivan’s, and IOP look good!," CW officials said. 

Some of the polluted waterways showed 50 times the state standard for what's safe to swim in.

"Typically, we don't see results that high," Charleston Waterkeeper Andrew Wunderly said. "We're in a really rainy period right now."

Wunderly said heavy rain like Charleston has seen for the last several days will push contaminants into our waters. That's what's causing this spike in bacteria levels.

"It picks up bacteria from malfunctioning septic tanks, dog waste, all different kinds of pet waste and wildlife waste, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, oil and grease from our cars," Wunderly said.

South Carolina standards say it’s unsafe to swim in water if the sample shows more than 104 MPN per 100 mL.

Even though bacteria levels aren’t always as high as they are right now, poor water quality is a recurring issue in our waterways.

"We need to be doing a better job of letting these folks know where and when it's safe to swim," Wunderly said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Environmental Control said in an email that if water has bacteria from rain, DHEC encourages people to take appropriate precautions to be safe.

That means DHEC doesn’t put out a public notice about dangerous swimming conditions. The spokesperson told me people should just read the Safe Swimming tips on DHEC’s website.

“I mean, certainly the public needs to be aware of what local water quality is before they get in," Wunderly said. "You know, during these rainy periods, swimming, paddling and sailing—those things can be a health risk.”

Charleston Waterkeeper's current data can be found here along with specific site listings of the 15 monitored areas. 

Charleston Waterkeeper released maps showing Folly Beach, Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms showing clean conditions for swimming. 

A high result is one that exceeds the State of South Carolina’s most stringent single sample maximum water quality standard for the amount of Enterococcus bacteria in waterways used for full body contact recreational activities like swimming. See SC Code Regs 61-68 E(14)(d)(5) and G(11) & (12). Swimming is not recommended in areas where the most recent testing shows bacteria counts of 104 MPN/100 mL or higher. Swimming in these areas may be a health risk, especially for children, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune systems.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved. 

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