Author Archives: SC DHEC

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!

 

DHEC Helps S.C. Parents Brush Up on Good Oral Health Habits for Kids

Division of Oral Health Receives Over $500,000 in Federal Funding ​

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and DHEC is helping parents brush up on the importance of their child’s oral hygiene and the positive habits that lead to healthy smiles. As part of this effort, DHEC’s Division of Oral Health received $570,000 in federal funding from the CDC to support the oral health of South Carolina’s youngest children.​

“We’re trying to expand the recognition of oral health as an essential part of total health and well-being from the earliest age,” said Dr. Ray Lala, director of the Division of Oral Health at DHEC. “We want receiving a toothbrush at a DHEC regional office or from a pediatrician to be a common experience. Prevention is key, and we can all be messengers.”

The Perinatal and Infant Oral Health Quality Improvement Expansion Grant funding helps expand the public’s access to preventive oral health information through their local health departments and medical and dental settings.

In addition to the Division of Oral Health’s ongoing efforts to expand federal funding opportunities, the division is also proud to recognize its leader, Dr. Lala. 

_MG_8774 Lala Sept 2013.jpgDr. Lala has spent his professional career in Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Maryland. He is an alumnus of the University of New Orleans and the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry. Upon completion of dental school, he entered private practice and maintains an active dental license from the State of Louisiana.​

After 15 years of private dental practice, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, assigned to the Indian Health Service in 1993. He was selected for a federal detail as the South Carolina State Oral Health Coordinator in 2000. Upon completion of this detail in 2004, Dr. Lala was reassigned to the Health Resources and Services Administration in Rockville, Md. Upon retirement from the Indian Health Service and the Public Health Service in 2014, Dr. Lala assumed his current position as Director of the Division of Oral Health at DHEC.

Dr. Lala’s and his team’s commitment to increasing access to preventive oral health information in South Carolina aligns with our agency’s core value of Embracing Service and strategy of Education and Engagement.

For more information about you can help prevent tooth decay, click here to read our recent news release.

From Other Blogs: The dangers of carbon monoxide, staying fit, tracking Radon

 A collection of health and environmental posts from other governmental blogs.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

According to the American Red Cross, more than 15,200 people go to hospital emergency rooms each year to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

And, approximately 400 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. — From Lexington Medical Center’s official blog

Fitting in fitness throughout your busy day

Finding time for exercise can be a challenge. Ideally, we should be getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. But how can you squeeze that into your already busy day? — From Flourish, Palmetto Health’s blog

Radon: We Track That!

CDC’s Tracking Network connects people with vital information on a variety of health and environmental topics. Learn how radon data and information help determine individual and community risk for radon and inform community interventions. — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Your Health – Your Environment blog