Monthly Archives: April 2019

This Earth Day, Let’s Tackle Food Waste Together

By: Bureau of Environmental Health Services

When people think about Earth Day, some of the things that come to mind are recycling, planting trees, and reducing pollution.  Consider food safety and the reduction of food waste in this conversation. With 40% of all food in the United States being wasted every year, it is easy to see that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.  These food habits lead to massive amounts of money wasted and environmental degradation – even though in South Carolina alone, 1 in 7 people, including 1 in 5 children, struggle with hunger according to Feeding America.  Fortunately, this is a challenge that can be addressed both individually and systemically.

You Can End Food Waste! It Starts at Home 

A couple of strategies for individual food waste management:

1).  Purchase only what you know you’re going to eat. When our refrigerators become overpacked, air is unable to properly circulate, and proper temperatures of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit cannot be maintained. This results in food going bad and needing to be thrown out and energy being wasted through a constantly running refrigerator.  In case you need a good visual of the journey of bringing food to our tables, watch “The Extraordinary Life and Times of a Strawberry” put on by the Save the Food campaign and Ad Council.

2).  Regularly monitoring refrigerator temperature is an effective way to ensure your food isn’t going bad.

3).  Learn about date labels. Date labels, such as “best by” and “use by,” most often refer to quality. Even though a date label has been exceeded, a food product is not necessarily unsafe.

To find tips and tricks for storing and preparing your food visit:  https://savethefood.com/storage and https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/index.html.

4).  Practice portion control and keep your leftovers.  By doing this, you can end up reducing your “waist” with both your body and food.  Whether you are eating out at a restaurant or have over prepared a meal at home, have a storage container on hand to have a tasty snack later in the day or week.

5).  Donate! Food banks and local food drives are always looking for more items. Since roughly 25% of all food and beverages purchased by families in the United States end up in the trash, there is an abundance of food being wasted that could be used to feed those in need. To learn more about where to donate food, you can visit: https://feedingthecarolinas.org/.

For additional tips on how to reduce your food waste at home, DHEC’s Guide for Reducing Food Waste at Home is an amazing resource!

Addressing the Systemic Causes of Food Waste

As a community, the most effective way to make sure food waste stops before it starts is to support local and national food waste reduction initiatives. There are no national regulations directing consistent food date labeling.  With 17% of restaurant meals going uneaten and 55% of leftovers not even being taken home, oversized portions are serious contributors to food waste and any comprehensive food waste program should take this into consideration. If your household or business is interested in addressing the issue of food waste, consider becoming a Don’t Waste Food SC Food Ambassador. DHEC has created a toolkit to get you started.

Do Your Part This Earth Day

Failure to manage food waste can lead to increased pollution.  Food waste ends up in landfills and food decomposition adds to the pollution generated at those sites.  Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  You can help decrease those emissions by turning wasted food into compost or donating it to local food banks, food rescue organizations, and other non-profits.  This Earth Day do your part to reduce your personal food waste and spread the word about this increasingly important issue. Not only will you help protect the Earth that all of us share, you will save some money while you do it! For more information on how you can help tackle the problem of food waste, you can visit Don’t Waste Food SC!

 

Midlands Rivers Coalition Kicks Off 3rd Year of Water Quality Monitoring

By: Bureau of Water

May 1, 2019, marks the third year the Midlands Rivers Coalition will monitor water quality health in the major rivers of the Midlands of South Carolina. Weekly monitoring will be conducted from May through September and site data will be posted every Thursday on howsmyscriver.org.

The Midlands Rivers Coalition brings together outfitters, recreation providers, environmental organizations, state and local government, academia, industry, property owners, and other users of the rivers. The group was formed in 2016 to educate river users about the water quality of the Broad, Lower Saluda, and Congaree Rivers. These rivers are attractive destinations for public fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, swimming, and wading. Short-term events such as heavy rain or sewer overflows can sometimes negatively affect water quality. Stormwater runoff picks up chemicals, trash, and other pollutants and flows into a storm sewer system or directly into a lake, stream, or river. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged, untreated, into the waterbodies we use for recreating. Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into recreational areas and create health hazards, prompting an advisory to be issued.

Coalition members provide funding to support water quality monitoring and assessment of bacteria levels in the three rivers. If a water quality sample comes back above the state bacteria standard for swimming, a Coalition advisory is issued. Subsequent sampling is conducted the following day and results are reported the next afternoon. Providing current, easily accessible information about water quality health empowers the public to make decisions about when to recreate on the river.

As the Coalition enters its third year of monitoring, it’s celebrating some milestones. In 2018, over 300 water quality samples were collected, an increase of nearly 200 samples from 2017. In the 2019 season, the Coalition will increase information accessibility by placing 21 informational signs in heavy public use locations around the Midlands’ rivers. Most of the signs can be changed to indicate a water quality advisory when elevated bacteria levels are detected. The signs will also feature a Quick Response code that river users can scan for more information.

WQM-2.jpg

The Coalition hopes river-related stakeholders across the state will imitate this initiative as a model to enhance public awareness of the impact of stormwater runoff and commit to informing citizens about water quality health. For more information about the Coalition, and to review water quality conditions, visit howsmyscriver.org.

DHEC Presents 2018 Community Star Awards to Santee Cooper, Brandon Burke

DHEC’s Office of Environmental Affairs recently presented Community Star Awards to the 2018 award winners. Awarded annually, Community Star recognizes a business, community organization, collaborative partnership, or individual in South Carolina that is going above and beyond environmental requirements to build better community relationships, promote environmental sustainability and resiliency, and/or improve quality of life for communities.

Santee Cooper was awarded the Business Community Star for their strong community presence and a proven track record of environmental excellence. They have several initiatives that have involved the community including the Camp Hall Commerce Park, the Give Oil for Energy Recovery (GOFER) project, and several educational initiatives. Santee Cooper engages citizens and communities throughout the state to promote environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Brandon Burke, a former restaurant general manager in the Charleston area, was awarded the Rising Star Community Star Award for his work with families in the surrounding community who were faced with children with cancer.  All of these efforts were taking place while his own son was battling cancer.

Brandon Burke

Join us in congratulating both of these well deserving recipients.

Community Star nomination period opens May 1. For more information, visit https://www.scdhec.gov/environment/community-star.

When Yellow means “Go”

By: Renee Madden, Bureau of Air Quality

Last summer, I received a call from my daughter who was concerned because she had heard that the Air Quality Index (also known as the AQI) expected a Yellow flag day. Since I work with air quality data, she wanted to know if it was safe to take my 3-year-old granddaughter outside to play or was it dangerous?

I understand her concern. We live in a State that enjoys clean air. In fact, as the graph below shows, the average ozone design value has fallen over the last 18 years and has been below the National Ambient Air Quality Standard since 2010.

BAQ-table-1

So, what’s the deal with all of the colors? As you all know, the AQI is a color-coded air quality guide that lets people know how healthy the air is expected to be – kind of like an air quality shortcut. Each color is associated with a certain level of ozone in the air that lets people know the level of pollution. The Green flag and the Yellow flag are the first two colors that occur in the AQI when the ozone is below the Standard and the air is healthy for normal activities. The Green flag means it’s a Great day and the Yellow flag means it’s a Good day. I know-the color Yellow usually means caution. But, the Yellow flag in air quality means that the air is acceptable except for a small number of people that are unusually sensitive to air pollutants and may need to take some precautions. For those people, it is important to know if there are any pollutants in the air. But, for most of the general population, the Yellow flag means it is safe to go outside and play. So, don’t be scared away by seeing the Yellow flag. This is one time that “Yellow” means, “Go, play and have fun!”

Another statement that I often hear is there seems to be more Yellow flag days now than before-and that’s right! But how can that be if the air quality is better than it was 10 years ago? Good question! The answer is-(drum-roll please)-when the air standards were lowered in 2015, they also change the AQI numbers. To be a Green day in 2008, the ozone level could be up to 0.059 parts per million (ppm). Now, it can only be up to 0.054 ppm. Also, in 2008, the Yellow flag started when the ozone level was 0.060 ppm and went up to 0.075 ppm. Now the Yellow flag starts when the ozone level is 0.055 ppm and goes up to 0.070 ppm (see Table and Graphs below).

AQI Category AQI Index 2008 ppm 2015 ppm
Good 0-50 0.000-0.059 0.000-0.054
Moderate 51-100 0.060-0.075 0.055-0.070
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 101-150 0.076-0.095 0.071-0.085
Unhealthy 151-200 0.096-0.115 0.086-0.105

BAQ-table-2

So, before 2015, we DID have more Green flag days.

BAQ-table-3

Now, we see more Yellow flag days. But remember, Yellow flag days are good days to be outside, too!