Author Archives: SC DHEC

DHEC In the News:  How to check for swim advisories, SC cancer deaths declining, and DHEC grants extension for acute care hospital

Here’s a look at health and environmental news around South Carolina.

Is there a swim advisory at your beach destination?: Here’s how to check

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WYFF4.com) Are you headed to the beach one more time before summer ends? You might want to check to see if there is a swimming advisory in effect for your beach destination.

 

Report:  Cancer deaths decline in South Carolina, though issues persist

LEXINGTON, S.C. (Lexingtonsunnews.com) Though issues persist in minority populations and rural communities, the overall death rate from cancer in South Carolina is on the decline, according to a report by the S.C. Cancer Alliance (SCCA) and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

 

DHEC grants Trident Medical 9-month extension for expansion project

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (Counton2.com) The South Carolina Department of Health is granting Trident Health a second nine-month extension of a certificate of need for a new 50-bed acute care hospital in Moncks Corner.

 

No Butts on the Beach

By: Liz Hartje, Ocean & Coastal Resource Management

Did you know that cigarette litter is the most common type of marine debris found on South Carolina beaches? Cigarette butts are a toxic form of marine debris. Most cigarette filters are made of thin plastic fibers called cellulose acetate, a material that degrades very slowly. Plastics exposed to sunlight and waves break down into smaller and more numerous microplastics, which may never fully degrade in the marine environment. Birds, fish, and sea turtles may ingest cigarette butts or other plastic debris along the coast, which can lead to choking, poisoning, or blockage of the gut. Leaching of toxic materials from cigarette butts can also degrade water quality. Various metals, including lead and nickel, have been found to leach from smoked cigarettes within 24 hours, which may increase the risk of acute harm to local marine life. In a laboratory study, a concentration of one cigarette butt in one liter of water killed half of all fish exposed, within 96 hours!

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In 2015, DHEC OCRM conducted a Cigarette Litter Reduction Pilot Study on Folly Beach in Charleston County. The project was funded by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and included partners from the Surfrider Foundation and Folly Green. The goal of the project was to reduce cigarette litter on Folly Beach by educating residents and visitors about the negative effects cigarette litter can have on the marine environment. Foldable paper ashtrays and flyers printed with educational information were distributed, and new cigarette receptacles were installed at several beach walkovers on Folly Beach. Small-scale monitoring events were designed to look at the amount of cigarette litter on the beach before and after project implementation. Results of the monitoring efforts found fewer cigarette butts in the study area after project implementation, suggesting this pilot project may have influenced human behavior.

Last year, DHEC’s project was replicated in the Grand Strand by the Coastal Waccamaw Stormwater Education Consortium (CWSEC). CWSEC and its partners took a watershed-based approach to enhance public awareness and promote proper disposal of cigarette butt litter at beach and river accesses in Horry and Georgetown Counties. Similar to the Folly Beach study, the Grand Strand Cigarette Litter Reduction project focused on public education, installation of new cigarette receptacles, and cigarette litter monitoring. Results of the project can found on the project website.

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Breathe Better (B2) for Businesses

As the population and the number of businesses grow, so does the volume of vehicles on the road in a single day. This can be challenging for keeping the air in South Carolina clean and safe.

The good news is South Carolina does have clean air and is currently attaining all of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.  These standards were established to protect public health. Maintaining favorable air quality by keeping emissions at a minimum will help keep South Carolina within the air quality standards and protect public health.

Your business can be a leader in your community by implementing air pollution reduction strategies to maintain good air quality in South Carolina:

  • Register to be a Breathe Better (B2) business. You will receive anti-idling signs that can go in your loading areas and parking lots.
  • Sign up for the EPA Air Quality Flag Program and display the corresponding air quality desktop sign in your place of business.
  • Create and support a telecommuting policy for your employees so they can work from home one or more days a week to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Create and support an alternative work schedule. A flexible work schedule allows your employees to stagger their work schedule to avoid driving in peak rush hour traffic.
  • Encourage carpooling and vanpooling. Sharing your daily commute can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and save on gas.
  • Install a bike rack at your business and encourage employees to ride a bike or walk to work whenever possible. It’s good for the environment and your health.
  • Consider replacing and/or purchasing fleet vehicles with hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles.
  • Look for opportunities to reduce diesel emissions through reduction strategies and technologies. South Carolina Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) Grants are available for eligible applicants to help fund these types of projects.

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.

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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.