Tag Archives: Environment

DHEC Celebrates World Oceans Day by Spotlighting Adopt-a-Beach Program

DHEC is celebrating World Oceans Day on June 8. Established by the United Nations, the day recognizes the role of oceans in our everyday life. It also inspires actions to protect the ocean and encourage sustainable use of marine resources.  

The ocean provides a myriad of benefits including food, medicine, climate regulation, natural resources, jobs, and recreation. In addition, ocean environments are home to countless living organisms, from bacteria and fungi to fish and marine mammals. Many threatened and endangered species live within the oceans, including the sea turtles that nest on South Carolina beaches.  

The ocean is also critically important to South Carolina’s economy. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), South Carolina’s ocean economic sectors, including living marine resources, marine construction, ship and boat building, marine transportation, offshore mineral extraction, tourism and recreation, accounted for over 87,000 jobs, over 3,600 establishments$2.1 billion in wages, and $5.4 billion in GDP in 2018. 

At the same time, the world’s oceans are currently facing significant threats, including pollution, overfishing, warming ocean temperatures, and habitat loss. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year.  

According to NOAA, while plastics break into smaller and smaller pieces over time, they never completely degrade. The remaining tiny plastic particles are referred to as microplastics, and they’re ubiquitous in ocean and coastal environments around the world.  

Plastics and other types of debris pose a threat to marine animals, including threatened, endangered, and commercially valuable species. Marine debris can also impact recreation, navigation, and public health. 

DHEC’s Adopt-a-Beach program is a volunteer-based cleanup program that aims to reduce litter along the state’s coastline.   

Over the past 5 years, Adopt-A-Beach partners have removed an estimated 5,800 pounds of marine debris from South Carolina beaches. Cigarette butts are the most commonly found type of marine debris on South Carolina beaches – over 58,700 have been logged and removed by Adopt-A-Beach partners in the last 5 years. 

For more information on how to participate in the program, visit the Beach Cleanup page at MyCoast South Carolina

Through the Adopt-a-Beach program, DHEC displays the core value of Promoting Teamwork. By celebrating World Oceans Day, we are demonstrating the agency strategy of Education and Engagement.  

Looking for other ways to be an ocean steward and make a difference?  

Consider the seafood you eat and choose sustainable options when possible. Consult South Carolina Aquarium’s Good Catch, a resource that generates awareness and leads communities in support of local fisheries and consumption of responsibly harvested seafood. 

As you celebrate the world’s oceans today, check out these other cool ocean facts from NOAA. 

  • The ocean covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface and includes over 96% of the Earth’s water. 
  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth and can be seen from the moon!  
  • The deepest part of the ocean is in the Mariana Trench, nearly 7 miles beneath the waves!  
  • Coral reefs cover only 1/50th of the ocean floor, but about one quarter of all the marine species make coral reefs their home.  
  • No light penetrates the ocean at depths greater than 3,280 feet.  
  • Aided by deep diving rovers and remote sensing cameras, scientists are still discovering new species beneath the waves.  
  • The Gulf Stream transports more water than all of the Earth’s rivers combined.  
  • The mid-ocean ridge crisscrosses the globe for over 40,000 miles and is the largest geological feature on Earth.  
  • About 95% of the ocean remains unexplored! 

February 2 is World Wetlands Day; SPOTLIGHT: Cathedral Bay Heritage Preserve

February 2 is World Wetlands Day, and it’s a great occasion to learn about South Carolina’s beautiful wetlands and their importance. DHEC works with other agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), to help protect wetlands across our state. 

Wetlands are vegetated aquatic ecosystems that include areas such as Carolina bays, marshes, and swamps. There are approximately 4.1 million acres of wetlands in South Carolina, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Wetlands are also home to reptile and amphibian populations as well as rare plants. In addition to being a haven for wildlife, the watery environments provide safety and health benefits to communities in the state by reducing flooding as well as cleaning and replenishing water supplies. 

This year, the Environmental Affairs Team would like to highlight Cathedral Bay Heritage Preserve.Also known as Chitty Bay or Chitty Pond, it is almost a pure stand of Pond Cypress.

 

Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service (https://www.fws.gov/southeast/charleston/coastal-program/)

The trees have wide buttressed bases, an adaptation to saturated and flooded soils. Looking off into the distance from within the bay, these majestic trees appear closer together as they recede into the distance, bringing to mind the view one might have standing inside a towering cathedral among the columns supporting its roof and within its buttressed walls. 

Managed by the SCDNR through the Heritage Trust Program, this property in Bamberg County is a type of wetland known as a Carolina Bay. These wetlands get their name because the vast majority of these occur in North and South Carolina and due to their abundance of bay trees.   

Besides serving as a refuge for many rare plants and wildlife, Carolina Bays share distinctive features, including an elliptical or oval shape and parallel orientation with one another along a northwest to southeast axis. There has been much debate about the origin of these features over the years, but recent work suggests they are relict thermokarst lakes, which develop by thawing of frozen ground, with subsequent modification by wind and waves.   

DHEC and DNR Work Together to Restore Oyster Beds

DHEC works throughout the year to support healthy people living in healthy communities.

This includes teaming up with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for that agency’s S.C. Oyster Recycling and Enhancement (SCORE) program during Trident United Way’s Day of Caring. SCORE collects oyster shells from 30 sites and then uses these oyster shells to create new oyster beds.  In this way, DHEC and DNR work together to restore and enhance  South Carolina’s coastal resources.

“This opportunity brings the community together from Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston counties to make a beneficial impact to our surrounding environment,” said Sean BriggsManager of DHEC’s Compliance and Enforcement Section of Ocean and Costal Resources Management. “By bagging these oyster shells and then later planting them into the environment, we’re contributing directly to the restoration of that environment.”

With an estimated over 300,000 bushels of shells consumed within South Carolina each year, Michael Hodges with DNR emphasized SCORE as a way of promoting conservation of the environment.

“The purpose of the program is to engage the public hands on restoration and foster environmental stewardship,” he said. “We’re always looking for new folks to come and volunteer with us. There are plenty of opportunities for the public to come help us create this new very valuable habitat.”

To learn more about SCORE or sign up to volunteer

Engaging in projects such as this one demonstrates DHEC’s core value of promoting teamwork and shows the agency strategy of science in action.

DHEC In the News: Flu season is here, Sand mine permits, Dispose of Vaping Devices

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

Is it too early to be thinking about flu season? The CDC says no

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WLTX.com) It may still feel like summer outside, but the seasons will change in a few weeks. Influenza viruses circulate all year, but flu activity usually begins to pick up in October and peaks between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

DHEC considering sand mine permit in Cottageville

WALTERBORO, S.C. (The Press and Standard) A proposal to establish a sand mine in the Cottageville area will be the topic of a South Caroline Department of Health and Environmental Control public hearing next month. The public hearing on Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria of Cottageville Elementary School, 648 Peirce Rd., will give residents an opportunity to voice their comments and views about MC Dirt Co. LLC of Summerville’s permit application.

Want to Get Rid of Vaping Devices? Now You Can Hand Them Over to the Feds

SACRAMENTO, C.A. (The Sacramento Bee) People throughout the Southeast can hand over their vaping devices as an “emerging public health threat” looms, federal officials say. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced its Charlotte District Office was teaming up with local officials to accept vaping devices and cartridges at sites across the region on Saturday.

DHEC continues to monitor and update confirmed and probable cases of severe pulmonary disease related to e-cigarette use or vaping.

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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