Tag Archives: Environment

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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Breathe Better (B2) for Businesses

As the population and the number of businesses grow, so does the volume of vehicles on the road in a single day. This can be challenging for keeping the air in South Carolina clean and safe.

The good news is South Carolina does have clean air and is currently attaining all of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.  These standards were established to protect public health. Maintaining favorable air quality by keeping emissions at a minimum will help keep South Carolina within the air quality standards and protect public health.

Your business can be a leader in your community by implementing air pollution reduction strategies to maintain good air quality in South Carolina:

  • Register to be a Breathe Better (B2) business. You will receive anti-idling signs that can go in your loading areas and parking lots.
  • Sign up for the EPA Air Quality Flag Program and display the corresponding air quality desktop sign in your place of business.
  • Create and support a telecommuting policy for your employees so they can work from home one or more days a week to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Create and support an alternative work schedule. A flexible work schedule allows your employees to stagger their work schedule to avoid driving in peak rush hour traffic.
  • Encourage carpooling and vanpooling. Sharing your daily commute can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and save on gas.
  • Install a bike rack at your business and encourage employees to ride a bike or walk to work whenever possible. It’s good for the environment and your health.
  • Consider replacing and/or purchasing fleet vehicles with hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles.
  • Look for opportunities to reduce diesel emissions through reduction strategies and technologies. South Carolina Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) Grants are available for eligible applicants to help fund these types of projects.