After several weeks of a joint investigation by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Beaufort Unit and the DHEC Shellfish Division, two individuals who were illegally harvesting and selling oysters in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area were apprehended.
On March 17, 10 bushels of adulterated oysters were seized from the scene, and 10 summons and 2 warnings were issued to the two individuals. This illegal trade puts the citizens at risk due to the health standards not being involved in the process.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has been working with various partners along the Grand Strand to develop an easy and informative way to provide beach swimming safety updates to beachgoers. This collaboration has led to the development of CheckMyBeach.com, a website for looking up helpful information like ocean water quality, swimming advisories, rip currents and more.
CheckMyBeach.com offers information about DHEC’s Beach Monitoring Program, which includes the weekly monitoring of fecal indicator bacteria, specifically Enterococcus, along South Carolina’s coast. If high levels of these bacteria are detected, which usually happens after heavy rains wash contaminants into the ocean, a short-term swimming advisory is issued for that particular spot – but the entire beach is not affected. CheckMyBeach.com links to DHEC’s information on current ocean water sampling results and swimming advisories, and it also provides localized news and updates about Grand Strand area beaches.
DHEC and its partners are excited for the new ways CheckMyBeach.com will keep residents and visitors updated about their favorite beaches. We’re working to spread the word about this new resource in the Grand Strand for the summer of 2020 (Phase I) and looking to expand that effort with new partners to promote CheckMyBeach.com for all of South Carolina’s beaches the following summer (Phase II). In addition to promotion through local media, hospitality and tourism groups, social media and signage at beach access point points, CheckMyBeach.com is the focus of four community “roadshows” in March to help inform the public of this great new information tool. Please see the details below – we hope you can attend!
NOTE: The event on Wednesday, March 18, is available only via YouTube, available following the event at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCDHEC. All future previously-scheduled CheckMyBeach.com roadshow events have been postponed.
Wednesday, March 4 5 p.m.-7 p.m. North Myrtle Beach City Hall (1018 Second Ave S., North Myrtle Beach)
January 9 is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and DHEC wants to take a moment to honor all of the employees that serve in this role.
“Protecting our citizens’ health and the environment from those who will intentionally do harm is the primary mission of our DHEC Law Enforcement programs,” said Michael Tempel, DHEC Chief of Office of Law Enforcement for Environmental Affairs and Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee Chairman. “Our officers and support staff work tirelessly to make sure our citizens are safe and violators are held accountable. I appreciate all their efforts and am proud to serve with them all.”
The agency has three law enforcement units:
Bureau of Drug Control
Office of Criminal Investigation
Shellfish Sanitation Program
Bureau of Drug Control (BDC)
DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control (BDC) serves a regulatory role as well as provides enforcement of the South Carolina Controlled Substances Act. Our BDC inspections are pharmacists who have undergone additional training through the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy to become state law enforcement officers.
They conduct onsite inspections and audits of pharmacies, hospitals and practitioners to make sure they are properly recording, storing and handling controlled substances. These important members of our Health Regulation team make recommendations and offer assistance to help these entities follow proper procedures in handling these medications.
BDC inspectors respond to complaints and concerns reported to DHEC that sometimes indicate criminal activity or misuse of controlled substances. When warranted, they also make arrests.
In 2019, DHEC’s BDC had approximately 28,000 controlled substance registrants, and the drug inspectors typically conduct 750 to 850 annual inspections. DHEC’s inspectors work closely with local law enforcement, the DEA, and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in their ongoing fight against the misuse of controlled substances.
Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI)
The three-person Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI) team is responsible for investigating grossly negligent, willful and knowing violations of state and federal environmental criminal laws.
Investigations generally involve criminal violations of:
the Hazardous Waste Management Act,
Pollution Control Act,
Solid Waste Policy and Management Act,
State Safe Drinking Water Act,
Infectious Waste Management Act
and other general and related crimes.
Frequently, other crimes are uncovered during the investigation of environmental crimes, such as complex conspiracies, fraudulent schemes, and falsification of documents. OCI works closely with state and federal prosecutors to bring those responsible for all of these crimes to justice.
Shellfish Sanitation Program
The Shellfish Sanitation Program is a health and environmental protection program with three major responsibilities:
classification of the waters used for the growing and cultivating of molluscan shellfish,
certification and inspection of facilities that process and
distribution of shellfish and the patrol of those areas that are determined to be unsuitable for the harvesting of shellfish.
The 10-officer team primarily operates in the state’s coastal counties but conducts operations as needed throughout the state.
The DHEC Shellfish Sanitation officers also work closely with counterparts in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Much of their work is performed outside of regular office hours on the coastal waters of the state.
Whether on the drug enforcement or members of our environmental affairs team, the officers that make up these three DHEC units Embrace Service and showLeadership and Collaboration. Thank you again for helping to promote and protect the safety and health of our communities.
A new year is on the horizon, and South Carolinians interested in updating their calendars with a new year of tidal information can now get the 2020 Tide Table Poster from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
The Tide Table Posters are produced by DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) to help citizens monitor and plan for tidal events along the coast. The tables provide daily tidal information based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tide predictions, including dates and times of high tides with corresponding water levels, and dates and times of low tides.
Where to Get Your Tide Table Poster
Limited supplies of printed Tide Tables are available at DHEC OCRM offices in Charleston, Beaufort, Myrtle Beach, and DHEC’s main location in Columbia. A foldable, desktop version of the chart is also available online. To learn more about the Tide Tables and to download the 2020 poster, click here.
DHEC holds a Coastal Photography Contest each year to determine the featured photograph for the new Tide Table Poster and web page. More than 400 photos were received during the 2019 contest, and Kristen Kappel was selected with her winning photo, “Pernicious Beauty.” Congratulations, Kristen!
King Tides Program
DHEC is leading the South Carolina King Tides initiative to document the effect that extreme tide events have on our state’s beaches, coastal waterways, private property and public infrastructure.
Through the initiative, citizen scientists can submit their photos of king tide events to help DHEC monitor and respond to coastal environmental issues. The photos are included in DHEC’s long-term analysis of coastal vulnerability and planning initiatives with municipalities.
To participate in the South Carolina King Tides Initiative, click here.
World Water Monitoring Day was established to create awareness about the importance of protecting water resources around the world by engaging people to monitor their local water bodies. Water monitoring kits can be ordered any time for purchase.
Do you like the outdoors and getting your feet wet in streams?
Would you like to learn first-hand about the water quality where you live?
Are you interested in citizen science?
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, join the citizens of South Carolina who have been certified to monitor stream quality though the South Carolina Adopt-a-Stream program. Established in 2017, SC Adopt-a-Stream is an EPA-approved freshwater monitoring program that teaches volunteers how to collect bacteria, biological parameters, and chemical and physical data (including temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity).
SC Adopt-a-Stream has awarded 1,400 certifications to contribute to the program. Over 200 sites statewide have been identified within the program’s database. Volunteers can become certified to collect data by attending one of the free workshops offered around the state.