Monthly Archives: April 2016

DHEC Launches S.C. Watershed Atlas to Enhance Planning and Collaboration

Healthy watersheds are vital to healthy communities and create a web of connections between human activities, water quality and sustainable health and livelihoods. Water connects everyone, which is why it is important for communities to have an understanding of watersheds and access to data that can inform decisions.

To help advance watershed planning and understanding, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has release the new S. C. Watershed Atlas – an interactive online map that provides a searchable, customizable view of watershed data across the state.

The application includes more than 90 data layers representing the agency’s water program, including: permits, advisories, dams, floodplains, Municipal Separate Storm Sewers, National Wetland Inventory, Public Water Supply, water quality assessments, watershed boundaries, and more.

floodplain 2

Floodplain data layer shown in pink shaded areas.

National Wetland Invetntory view crop

National Wetland Inventory data displayed in grey on the Atlas.

natural swimming areas and marinas

A few of the water permit data layers include natural swimming areas and marinas.

Other key features:

  • A selection of base maps, including Google 360o Street View
  • Measuring and drawing tools
  • Custom map making and printing capabilities
  • Search and help features

“This innovative, interactive map makes it easier for users to find a variety of watershed information, and see it in a spatial context that makes it more relevant to them and their community,” said DHEC Bureau of Water Interim Chief David Baize. “This new way of looking at watershed data can provide some really practical solutions to both scientific and everyday questions. It is an excellent tool for anyone involved in effective watershed planning and collaboration.”

The new tool has already proven to be instrumental in providing critical data to the agency and the public when it was used to locate and view dams across the state during the historic flooding of 2015. Using the Watershed Atlas, DHEC staff were able to quickly map and view satellite imagery of any permitted dam in the state and provide important information and perspective for concerned citizens.

dam view screenshot watershed atlas

Map of  state-regulated dams. Icons are in red, green or blue to indicate classification level.

The Watershed Atlas is designed to provide enhanced access to timely information from DHEC’s water programs in a user-friendly GIS (geographic information system)  format.  It is regularly updated as new data becomes available, replacing the hard-copy watershed assessment reports that had previously been produced every five years.

The Watershed Atlas is part of DHEC’s growing inventory of GIS applications such as MarinaMate, Beach Guide, and Environmental and Public Health Tracking.

To access DHEC’s S.C. Watershed Atlas online, visit www.scdhec.gov/watershed/.

By Bryony Wardell

Inaugural Director’s Award Showcases Excellence at DHEC

Excellence. Innovation. Teamwork. Service. Ten S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control employees were honored Thursday, April 14, 2016, for embodying these core values. The Director’s Award, established in 2015, is DHEC’s most prestigious employee award and is presented annually to team members who exemplify the agency’s values.

The inaugural award winners are Upstate Program Director Maxine Williams; Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Administrative Specialist Geraldine Feemster and the Clean Power Plan Team.

The winners were selected from a pool of 58 nominations submitted by colleagues from throughout the agency. The Director’s Award Selection Committee had the difficult task of closely reviewing all of the nominations and choosing the final award winners from the competitive group of nominees.

Maxine Williams, APRN, FNP, BC

Maxine Williams 800

Maxine Williams accepting her award along with her mother. 

Maxine Williams is the program director in the Upstate Region where she oversees preventive health, immunizations and school-located vaccination clinics. She has worked at DHEC almost 16 years and also served in the Pee Dee Region and as a family planning nurse consultant in the Central Office.

In the words of one of her colleagues, “Maxine is one of those rare people who gives tirelessly of their time, knowledge and skills. She cares—not about recognition, awards, accolades or pats on the back—but about her staff, co-workers, friends, family and the clients we serve.”

Maxine’s dedication to finding and piloting new ways to improve care, streamline processes and improve productivity earned her the nickname “Pilot Queen” among her staff and colleagues.  One of her lasting innovations was the first Preventive Health Nurse Integration Program, which she launched in the Pee Dee Region. The program is now used statewide and is a standard for Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Family Planning services. She encourages her staff to “think outside the box,” and they know creativity is respected and rewarded.

At the center of all Maxine’s efforts is a heart of service, the willingness to do whatever is needed and a genuine concern for others.  You’ll find her in the trenches with her team, always ready to work alongside them, advocate on their behalf, challenge them to do better and support them through it all.

DHEC is privileged to have Maxine as a member of our team, inspiring those around her to dream big, work hard and serve with excellence.

 Geraldine Feemster

Geraldine Feemster

Geraldine Feemster is a WIC administrative specialist in the York County Health Department in the Midlands Region.

She has worked at DHEC for more than 20 years and is a leader to her peers and beloved by WIC customers – many of whom she knows by name. Her strong commitment to WIC, calm disposition and genuine care for her customers is evident in the work she does every day, and she is making a difference in the lives of South Carolinians.

Geraldine is known for taking the time to get to know customers and for always serving with compassion and patience. She has worked to help grow not only WIC, but other health services as well, and wants York County Health Department to be a thriving place that serves the community.

Her commitment to service doesn’t stop with customers. She is also an outstanding teammate and leader who is always willing to help train a new employee, share institutional knowledge with colleagues and help staff members feel supported and empowered in their roles.

The relationships that Geraldine has built in the community and at DHEC are actively advancing the vision of healthy people living in healthy communities.

The Clean Power Plan Team

Clean Power Plan Team

Front Row (L to R) Lawra Boyce, Richelle Tolton, Kayla Anderson, Maeve Mason                  Back Row: Karen Sprayberry, Robbie Brown, Henry Porter, Michael Monroe

This team includes staff from Environmental Affairs’ Bureau of Air Quality and Bureau of Environmental Health Services. They are: Kayla Anderson, Lawra Boyce, Robbie Brown, Maeve Mason, Michael Monroe, Henry Porter, Karen Sprayberry, and Richelle Tolton.

The team was recognized for its outstanding efforts to help ensure South Carolina developed a plan that worked for all stakeholders in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule on carbon emissions from existing power plants.

Once it was formed, the Clean Power Plan team quickly began expanding partnerships across the state to help ensure that South Carolina took a collaborative approach toward developing a plan that worked for the whole state and addressed South Carolina’s unique challenges.

The Clean Power Plan Team recognized the need to also receive input from the general public.  The team reached out to its network of community partners to discuss the federal rule and its impact. Team members contacted faith-based organizations, community advocacy organizations, low-income assistance organizations, and senior centers to get feedback on issues related to energy use in their communities.

Based on the early feedback, the team planned and held regional public engagement sessions on the state’s energy future.

The sessions included formal presentations by DHEC and the Office of Regulatory Staff, an interactive audience participation survey and opportunities for attendees to have one-on-one discussions with local electric providers, representatives from each of the major renewable energy sectors (wind, solar, biomass), staff from regulatory agencies, energy advocates and other organizations.

On December 8, 2015, the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Inc. presented the Lineman’s Award to the Clean Power Plan Team in recognition of its diligent efforts to build consensus among S.C. stakeholders in addressing energy policy issues in a manner that may be beneficial to all South Carolinians.

In addition to the Lineman’s Award, the team received accolades from attendees of the public engagement sessions, as well as state and national organizations, commending it for collaborative efforts in organizing the informative meetings.

The group has won the respect and admiration of many across the state and nation because of its collaborative approach to understanding the Clean Power Plan, and seeking the insight of energy experts and citizens to identify forward-looking, creative solutions that promote and protect the health of the public and the environment.

DHEC committed to leading a quality public health system

By Catherine Heigel

The average South Carolinian probably isn’t aware of the time and expertise that goes into developing a quality public health system that guards against a potential flu outbreak, tests fish to determine if they are safe to eat, educates citizens amid concerns about the Zika virus and provides vaccinations to children to protect them and future generations from preventable diseases.

They likely aren’t aware of what goes into making sure that infants get proper food and nutrition, citizens are educated on sexually transmitted diseases and people of all ages receive critical health information aimed at helping reduce obesity and tobacco use. They might not know what goes into monitoring and treating chronic diseases or tuberculosis.

But while they might not fully understand what it takes to build effective programs to address those issues, citizens most certainly understand that if someone isn’t doing that vital work — and much more — our overall public health and quality of life will decline.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is the agency charged with that big task. DHEC employs many professionals and experts whose job it is to understand how all these things work together to impact communities. More importantly, they possess the skills necessary to help develop a public health system capable of preventing and responding to the various emergencies and outbreaks that sometimes arise.

DHEC oversees many efforts to reverse negative public health trends. We’re seeing improvement. For example, infant mortality in South Carolina has decreased by over 30 percent from 2005-2014. In the area of youth smoking, an analysis of the agency’s 2015 South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey shows that between 2013 and 2015, cigarette use among high school students has continued to fall below record levels, from 15.4 percent to 11.9 percent.

With locations in all 46 counties around the state, DHEC is accessible to all residents who make numerous clinic visits each year, whether for TB therapy or a flu vaccine. Three programs in particular comprise the vast majority of visits to our clinics: the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, Preventive Health (family planning services and STD testing/treatment) and Immunization.

During the 2014-15 fiscal year, we had 831,674 client visits to those programs:

  • 596,662 WIC visits
  • 177,400 Preventive Health visits
  • 57,612 Immunization visits

Although we work year-round to educate and inform citizens about a wide range of public health issues, this week gives us an opportunity to highlight the impact public health programs and services have on protecting and improving the well-being of all South Carolinians. South Carolina is joining communities around the country this week in recognition of National Public Health Week, which runs April 4-10.

Day in and day out, DHEC works to help communities, families and individuals access information and resources to facilitate personal wellness and empower healthy choices throughout life. We are dedicated to keeping our air, water and food safe. We also work tirelessly to prevent health emergencies. But emergencies do arise at times, and DHEC will be there to respond to such challenges.

These days, DHEC is closely monitoring the Zika virus, although there has not been a confirmed case found in South Carolina. The public is understandably concerned about the disease following an outbreak in South America and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention telling pregnant women to refrain from traveling to areas where the virus is common.

It is likely that Zika will, at some point, be detected in South Carolina. As it does in the case of other mosquito-borne diseases, DHEC is working to detect the presence of Zika in South Carolina and is regularly providing information and education to health care providers, local mosquito-control programs and the general public. DHEC’s public health staff is seeking to detect the virus as early as possible in the event it appears in mosquito populations or in travelers who visited areas where the virus is active.

Whether faced with the daily task of helping citizens stay well or working to prevent or respond to a public health emergency, DHEC is committed to maintaining a strong public health system that keeps our citizens healthy and productive and our communities prosperous and vibrant.

During National Public Health Week, we have been hosting open houses in each of our four regions to celebrate the impact of public health and strengthen our connections to the communities we serve. The forums give citizens — from the Midlands to the Pee Dee to the Lowcountry to the Upstate — the opportunity to come in and learn more about our public health system and how we are actively fostering healthy people living in healthy communities in our great state.

MANDATORY CREDIT: Travis Bell Photography ©2015 Travis Bell

Catherine Heigel                                                                  Travis Bell Photography ©2015 Travis Bell

 

Catherine Heigel is the Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. A South Carolina native, Heigel holds more than 20 years of combined legal, regulatory and executive management experience.