Monday, October 7, 2019
Clean Up James Island Creek
James Island has a pollution problem. Bacteria counts near the Ellis Creek Bridge on Folly Road are frequently too high for swimming. Please give me the opportunity to work to make James Island Creek safe for swimming, kayaking, fishing, shrimping, and harvesting oysters.
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has just completed a TMDL study of the creek. The Town, the City of Charleston, and Charleston County were all involved in the study, because the area that drains into James Island Creek includes areas in the Town, the City, and the unincorporated area. These three governments are required to develop a plan to better monitor the water quality of the waterway for the next five years. With additional information, the governments will then be required to take actions to reduce the bacteria counts in James Island Creek.
While we must begin a process of more careful monitoring, I believe that five years is much too long to wait to take action. The most likely sources of pollution are 1) sanitary sewer overflows, 2) failed septic systems, 3) pet waste.
The major sewer spill by the Charleston Water System in August is the most extreme example of one source of pollution of James Island Creek. During major storms, we see sewage fountaining from manhole covers. These need to be reported. Working with Charleston County, and our County Councilwoman Jenny Honeycutt, we can now call 911 to report a sewer spill. Also, it is important to call our local DHEC office in North Charleston at (843) 953-0032. We need to make sure that our sewer providers, the James Island Public Service District and the Charleston Water System, maintain their systems to avoid leaks and spills. They need our help by promptly reporting problems so that they can address them.
While most James Islanders are on sewer, many in the James Island Creek basin use septic systems. Septic tanks need to be pumped out periodically and should be inspected on a regular basis. Failed sewer systems result in sewage leaking onto the ground from the drain field. With rain, this waste is washed into drainage ditches and then into James Island Creek. At one time, it was legal to directly pipe grey water (from washing machines) and even raw sewage into our marshes and creeks. The Town recently passed an ordinance requiring proper disposal of sewage, including a properly functioning septic tank or sewer connection. Dumping waste into the creek or marsh is illegal under the Town's stormwater ordinances. My goal over the next four years is to review and improve these ordinances, coordinate with the City and County, and enforce existing rules. I have also asked the James Island Public Service District to look into the feasibility, including cost, of expanding the sewer system in areas of the James Island Creek basin.
Pest waste is frequently the source of water pollution. We need to educate the people of James Island to pick up pet's waste and put it in the garbage rather than leave it in the yard. When it is left in the yard, rain washes it into the drainage system and then into the marshes and creeks.
The three local governments will be required to take action to improve the water quality in James Island Creek. I have followed this issue closely and believe that the time for action is now. Please allow me to lead our community in this vital effort.