Category Archives: Employee Recognition

DHEC Employees Recognized with OLEM Partnerships Award from EPA

Susan Fulmer, manager of the Federal Remediation Section, and Heather Cathcart, Federal Remediation Technical Coordinator, with the Bureau of Land and Waste Management, were recently awarded the Excellence in OLEM Partnerships Award from United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their participation in the Federal Facility Academy.

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Public Health Thank You Day; a message from DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler

Public Health Thank You Day is celebrated the Monday before Thanksgiving every year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought newfound attention to the importance of public health and the debt of gratitude we owe to all our public health professionals. We thank you for all you do under even the most trying of circumstances to protect and improve the health of all communities. 

Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director, wrote a message for all DHEC public health staff to recognize them today. Read her message below:

Dear Team DHEC, 

Today is Public Health Thank You Day, and I wanted to thank each one of you for your contributions to our shared vision of healthy people living in healthy communities.

Whether involved in COVID-19 activities or keeping our many public services and operations running smoothly, you have made a positive difference in the lives and health of South Carolina residents this year.  

Thanks to you: 

  • We have ordered and distributed COVID-19 vaccines so that more than 5.1 million doses were administered in South Carolina. 
  • Over the past 12 months, there have been 495,865 client visits (excluding COVID-19 appointments) conducted by our health department staff across the state. 
  • DHEC successfully became an Accredited Public Health Agency in February 2021. 
  • The Health Care Associated Infection Team rolled out Project Firstline, a new infection prevention training program for staff across all disciplines and all types of healthcare facilities in South Carolina.  
  • Healthcare Quality’s merging of state licensing and federal Medicare certification oversight, training, and inspections will help better streamline resources necessary to ensure healthcare facilities comply with health and safety standards, ultimately benefitting the public health of the residents of South Carolina 
  • The lab’s Analytical Chemistry team, in partnership with 29 hospitals across the state, expanded testing for opioid surveillance and has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a model for other state laboratories participating in opioid surveillance.
  • Public health team members, the public health state veterinarian, rabies program team members, and Division of Acute Disease and Epidemiology on-call physicians collaborated with the CDC rabies program to develop a survey questionnaire in response to multiple cases of people overnighting with bats at rental properties. The questionnaire has since been the template for potential bat exposure situations in other states.
  • The Bureau of Drug Control’s Prescription Monitoring Program continues to be instrumental in addressing the opioid crisis. Since December 2020, South Carolina Reporting and Identification Prescription Tracking System (SCRIPTS) users can access data from 44 other state Prescription Monitoring Programs, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Military Health System. Data shows a correlation between the increased number of providers utilizing PMP and the decrease in the total number of controlled substance prescriptions.  
  • The STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis Division ensured a statewide network of community-based organizations provided services for over 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS by offering testing, established standards of care, and supportive services.   
  • Improved the process for practicing veterinarians to report their yearly rabies vaccination numbers as required per the Rabies Control Act. The improved communication has allowed for the rabies program to send over 350 surveys to our veterinary stakeholder partners statewide to help clarify required procedures as detailed in the Act. 

These are just a few highlights from your amazing dedication this year.  

Thank you so much for all you have done, are doing, and will continue to do to contribute to a healthy society. 

I am incredibly proud to be part of this team. 

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Brannon 

L. Brannon Traxler, MD, MPH

Public Health Director

DHEC raises awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease on Light the World In Teal Day

Light the World in Teal is an annual observance held on Nov. 4. which highlights November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Members of DHEC’s Healthcare Quality staff wore teal Thursday, Nov. 4, to recognize Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.  

Teal is the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s awareness color. Persons around the world wear teal, and buildings and structures light up in teal to participate in the observance. 

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 95,000 South Carolinians are currently living with Alzheimer’s, according to the 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report. 

DHEC recognizes Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and encourages the public to learn more information about Alzheimer’s disease. You can do so by clicking here.

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.