Category Archives: DHEC In the News

DHEC Team and Partner Cited in National Engineering Competition for Chemical Contamination Cleanup

DHEC’s South Carolina Drycleaning Facility Restoration Trust Fund (DFRTF) team with engineering services provided WSP USA Inc. (WSP, formerly Ecology & Environment, Inc.) earned a National Recognition Award for exemplary engineering achievement in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ (ACEC) 54th annual Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) for performing environmental assessment and contamination remediation statewide at former dry cleaning facility sites enrolled in the DFRTF program.

Konstantine Akhvlediani, Robert Hodges, and LaJoyce Perkins-Alexander compose the agency team and their mission is to clean up contaminated dry-cleaning sites using state contractors, all of which is paid for from the trust fund. The team administers the fund and directs and oversees the cleanup activities.

Preliminary assessment (PA) was performed at 420 former dry-cleaning facility sites to determine the magnitude of environmental contamination resulting from the use of various chemicals. Of these, 100 sites were closed where no impact was found and more than 300 sites had chemical residue that posed a risk to private and public drinking water wells. Following the PA risk-based ranking of sites, comprehensive remedial investigations beginning with sites exhibiting with the highest potential risks to drinking water sources was initiated.

Dry-cleaning solvent impacts to groundwater and soil were evaluated by identifying source areas and delineating the extent of dissolved contaminants using rapid vertical profiling techniques for sample collection combined with a highly effective and innovative field-based colorimetric screening method for low-level detection of chlorinated compounds. WSP specifically developed this screening method to facilitate real-time decision making and strengthened overall data quality resulting in significantly accelerated process of source identification and dissolved contaminant delineation.

Once fully characterized with contaminant fate and transport determined, each site was reprioritized. Sites presenting the greatest risk were addressed through design and implementation of various remedial actions including source removal, in-situ chemical oxidation, in-situ biostimulation, and/or monitored natural attenuation.

A special approach was designed to rapidly evaluate the Vapor Intrusion Potential (VIP) of contaminant impacts to the sub-slab soil gas and indoor air facilities currently occupied by non-dry cleaning-related businesses. At sites with indoor air concentrations exceeding target cleanup concentrations, the team designed and implemented an approach to mitigate the indoor air impacts using a modified Sub-Slab Depressurization System (SSDS). Originally designed for radon mitigation, this system requires minimal design modifications and utilizes readily available system components.

This significantly minimized design and construction costs. Most SSDS systems achieved target Vapor Intrusion Screening Levels for drycleaning related compounds within 30 days of startup. The SSDS systems also provide significant removal of chlorinated solvent mass from the sub-slab soils. To date, the systems have collectively removed over 800 pounds of tetrachloroethylene from beneath former DC facilities.

The project also received the additional honor of Diamond Award from ACEC New York this year representing engineering excellence from throughout the nation and the world. Judging for the awards program—known industry-wide as the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry”– took place in February and was conducted by a national 20-member panel of built-environment leaders, along with experts from government, media, and academia. Award criteria focused on uniqueness and originality, technical innovation, social and economic value, and generating excitement for the engineering profession.

Recognition of all award winners including top winners—20 Honor Awards, 16 Grand Awards, and the prestigious “Grand Conceptor Award” for the year’s most outstanding overall engineering achievement—took place during the 2021 Virtual EEA Gala, held Thursday, June 17, 2021.

DHEC Division One of Four Selected for Nationwide CDC Pilot for Cancer Survivorship

The Division of Cancer Prevention, located in the Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, was one of four awardees nationwide selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a pilot project to address rural and urban disparities in cancer survivorship.

The pilot project, titled “Improving the Health and Wellness of Cancer Survivors in Rural Communities,” focused specifically on tele-mentoring strategies using Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) to increase coordination and movement of knowledge between specialists and primary care providers. The internationally recognized Project ECHO offers a unique knowledge-sharing approach to create an online community that shares best-practices and case-based learning resources. This online model leverages technology to expand the reach and connectivity of providers in rural areas to subject-specific knowledge and specialists.

SC CCCP held monthly; one-hour Zoom sessions from October 2020 to February 2021. Topics included cancer pain management, sexuality and intimacy, and nutrition for cancer survivor patients. Each session was able to provide expert-delivered content that highlighted best-care practices and created a community of practice among oncologists, primary care providers, nurses, social workers, researchers, administrators, and other caregivers.

Over this ECHO series, the project reached 102 unique participants, with an average of 37 participants per session. Data from this pilot project was able to link providers in four rural counties with specialists in seven urban SC counties and four out-of-state sites. Providers who participated in the ECHO intervention reported up to 60% of their patient population reside in rural areas, which speaks to the intervention’s achievement in targeting rural patients for improved cancer care and outcomes.

“Residents in our rural counties often have less health care access including fewer health care workers, specialists such as cancer doctors, and transportation options,” said Sonya Younger, Comprehensive Cancer Control Program Director. “Rural residents are also more likely to be uninsured and to live farther away from health services. Through innovative telementoring, Project ECHO helped the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control increase rural provider workforce knowledge to provide best-practice, cancer specialty extended care.”

Visit the SC Cancer Alliance’s website to listen to the Cancer Survivorship Project ECHO recorded presentations at https://www.sccancer.org/events/cancer-survivorship-project-echo-recorded-presentations/ 

VIDEO INFORMATION 

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By utilizing the ECHO model to share knowledge and foster a clinical community, reaching widespread providers and other clinical professionals that service rural communities, the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control shows the core value of Inspiring Innovation and is an example of the agency strategies of Service and Accessibility and Education and Engagement.

Success was possible through the connectedness of the SC Cancer Division including Best Chance Network, Comprehensive Cancer Control, and Research and Planning program staff and its partners and providers, as well as virtual sessions and electronic communication, demonstrating DHEC’s core value of Promoting Teamwork

DHEC Raises Awareness During Pride Month

June is Pride Month, and June 27 is Pride Day. These are opportunities to celebrate achievements by members of the LGBTQIA+ community and acknowledge challenges these individuals may face when it comes to public health and environmental justice.  

“Pride month, and Pride celebrations in general, are a vital part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Billy Wiggins, Director of Clinical Services for the DHEC Public Health Bureau of Community Health Services, and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Celebrations, such as Pride, provide important moments of visibility and understanding. In honor of Pride Month, people are encouraged to take some time to learn more about the challenges, accomplishments, and diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

LGBTQIA+ community stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.   

Pride celebrations started as protests dating back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969 New York City (NYC). In 2016 the Stonewall site in NYC was declared a national monument.

To recognize the meaningful impact that our LGBTQIA+ community has had in the fields of environmental protection and public health, we’ve spotlighted several notable public figures who have and/or are making a difference in our communities.

“For almost 15 years DHEC’s STD/HIV and viral hepatitis division has partnered with SC Pride to offer outreach and testing services during the annual Pride festival,” said Tony Price, Prevention Program Manager of that Division. “DHEC has provided free testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C. At some of the events, DHEC has also provided vaccines for hepatitis A/B and influenza. The division has enjoyed a strong partnership with SC Pride, its leadership, and participants in the past. We look forward to continuing our efforts to support the LGBTQIA+ community with our health promotion and outreach programs.” 

Public Health 

Two notable public health figures who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community are Michael J. Kaplan and Dr. Rachel Levine.

Kaplan is currently the President and CEO of Melanoma Research Alliance, and before that he was President and CEO of Washington, DC-based AIDS United. During his 25 years of executive non-profit and public health leadership experience, Kaplan has proven to be a supporter of health research and policy, mainly in the area of serving people living with HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Levine became the first openly transgender federal official in a Senate-confirmed role earlier this year when she was named Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. She has served as: Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health; Pennsylvania’s Physician General; Vice-Chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics; and Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. In addition to her recent posts in medicine and government, Dr. Levine is an accomplished speaker and author of numerous publications on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. 

As for public health challenges, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are five times as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide, and 40 percent of transgender adults report having attempted suicide. According to a 2017 study from the University of Chicago, “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America.” LGBT youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness compared to their heterosexual counterparts, according to the CDC. More information on LGBTQIA+ health is available on the CDC’s website.

Environmental Affairs

DHEC uses the definition created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to define Environmental Justice (EJ) “as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Our agency’s five EJ principles are: 

  1. Ensure that Environmental Justice Communities are Routinely Considered Throughout Decision-Making Processes. 
  2. Proactively Build and Strengthen Relationships with Communities by Sharing Information, Providing Technical Assistance, and Identifying Resources. 
  3. Proactively Promote Partnerships Between Communities and Other Stakeholders. 
  4. Encourage and Facilitate Capacity Building and Collaborative Problem Solving Within Environmental Justice Communities. 
  5. Strengthen Our Agency’s Leadership with the Goal of Sustaining Environmental Justice within SC DHEC. 

You can learn more about EJ by clicking here.  A few members of LGBTQIA+ community that are notable for their contributions to the environment are: 

Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose influential book “Silent Spring” and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. “Silent Spring” was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. 

Mahri Monson, an Environmental Protection Specialist for the EPA, describes her work as “enforcing U.S. environmental laws, addressing serious pollution problems to protect communities and the environment.” A proponent of green infrastructure, Monson’s work strategizes storm management and mitigates sewer overflows, providing environmental and social benefits for communities throughout the country. Monson also worked alongside co-workers to create a policy concerning transgender and gender nonconforming EPA employees, including a guide to transitioning at the EPA and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. 

 

Understanding Ground-level Ozone Forecasts

South Carolina has had two forecasted Code Orange Ozone Action Days since Ground-level Ozone forecasting season began on April 1st of this year. A Code Orange Ozone Action Day means that atmospheric conditions will likely produce concentrations of ground level ozone air pollution that may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, which includes people with lung disease, older adults, and children.   

Ozone typically forms with highest concentrations on warm, hot, sunny days with light wind speeds, which allows more of the pollutant to form and accumulate. Forecasting ground-level ozone concentrations is an educated prediction based on certain weather conditions and emissions. DHEC has a team of experienced meteorologists on staff that review weather and air quality information daily to produce a next-day ozone forecast, which is posted on DHEC’s own ozone website and U.S. EPA’s AIRNow website. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecast ahead of time allows you to make plans and adjust your schedule and activities for the next day. Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion, take more breaks, and do less intense activities, especially during afternoon and early evening hours when ozone concentrations are typically highest. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecastahead of time also allows you to make informed decisions that can help reduce air pollution and decrease ground-level ozone by:    

  1. Refueling your car after 6:00 PM and don’t top off your tank  
  2. Using electric powered lawn equipment  
  3. Avoiding driving during peak traffic hours  
  4. Combining trips when you drive  
  5. Telecommuting (work from home) if possible
  6. Taking your lunch to work  

Sign up to receive forecasts via emails, texts or tweets (customized to fit your style) using EPA’s free EnviroFlash service at www.enviroflash.info.  
For additional information about ozone and air quality, click here.