Tag Archives: Environmental Health

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.   

Program Spotlight: SC Adopt-a-Stream

World Water Day was observed this week on March 22. DHEC would like to take this opportunity to highlight the SC Adopt-a-Stream program.  

SC Adopt-a-Stream is a statewide, volunteer water quality monitoring program that is led by DHEC’s Bureau of Water and Clemson’s Center for Watershed Excellence.

The program educates and certifies citizens in protocols for collecting stream data. The program has a meaningful impact on citizen science because the data generated by SC Adopt-a-Stream volunteers helps to screen for water quality issues, show trends in water quality over time and can be used for educational purposes.  

SC Adopt-a-Stream was founded on the belief that people who spend the time to get to know their streams and waterways, through recreation or data collection, will want to work to protect them. The program is a fun, easy way to make a positive impact in your community and help the overall health of South Carolina waterways.  

If you are interested in becoming an SC Adopt-a-Stream volunteer or you simply want to learn more about the program, explore the website at www.scadoptastream.org.

Savannah River Site: A Brief History and 2019 ESOP Report

Aerial View of the Saltstone Tanks at the Savannah River Site

Are you familiar with the Savannah River Site?  Many South Carolinians aren’t, but if you are from Aiken or Barnwell County, you may have in one way or another been associated with the site whether it be through a long line of family history or as a source of income. 

The Savannah River Site (SRS), a 310 square mile area located 20 miles south of Aiken was a large producer of nuclear weapon materials during the Cold War. Due to nuclear material testing and lack of environmental regulation during the Cold War era, the SRS property has been contaminated with radioactive material. Today, its focus is on environmental remediation. 

Before and after photos of R Reactor at SRS as the focus of the site shifted from production to remediation

SRS scientists have sampled the air, water, soil, and wildlife for many years. However, to have a verification system for SRS’s annual data, the Department of Energy- Savannah River partnered with DHEC to create the Environmental Surveillance and Oversight Program (ESOP). ESOP is a division of DHEC specific to its Midlands Aiken Environmental Affairs Office. Since 1995, DHEC’s ESOP team has conducted independent, non-regulatory monitoring of SRS. 

Members of the ESOP team work to collect and analyze samples of air, water, soil, sediment, vegetation, milk, fish, and game. DHEC scientists take samples at the site, around its perimeter, and in background locations. Depending on the environmental media type, availability, and weather, samples are gathered weekly, quarterly, biannually, and/or annually.  DHEC tests the material collected for alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, as well as for non-radiological chemicals. Most of the testing is performed at the State Park lab in Columbia, but some samples are analyzed in the Aiken Office laboratory.

DHEC scientist collecting water samples on the Savannah River

Each year, DHEC publishes an annual report that highlights the previous year’s sampling results of the Savannah River Site. The report’s findings are made available online and are presented to the public through SRS’s Citizens Advisory Board meetings and at local schools, organizations, and events. Recently, DHEC released the 2019 ESOP Data Report and 2019 Raw Data Excel File on its website:  https://scdhec.gov/environment/pollution-types-advisories-monitoring/pollution-monitoring-services-advisories/monitoring-8. The publication provides the data collected by DHEC, displays historical trends, and compares DHEC and DOE-SR data for overlapping sample locations.

For inquiries about the report, data, and outreach opportunities, please reach out to Grace Anne Martin at martinga@dhec.sc.gov.

Pictures Citations:

Savannah River Site. (August 29, 2012). Saltstone Type 2 Tanks [Photograph]. Savannah River Site.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/51009184@N06/8057139609/in/album-72157631519292000/ Savannah River Site. (November 24, 2010). SRS at 60 – R Reactor [Photograph]. Savannah River Site. https://www.flickr.com/photos/51009184@N06/5228298108/in/album-72157631519358714/

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.

DHEC In the News: SC Has its First Green Ribbon School, Rock Hill Water Spill Update, MUSC Proposal for New Health Facilities

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

Dutch Fork Elementary school is first Green Ribbon School in SC

IRMO, S.C. (goupstate.com) There are honeybees in the library, trout in the classrooms and vegetables in the yard at Dutch Fork Elementary. The school’s focus on the environment, sustainable practices, and conservation education recently earned it the first Green Ribbon in South Carolina.

 

SC Health Officials on Rock Hill Water Spill

ROCK HILL, S.C. (heraldonline.com) DHEC officials in South Carolina talk about the Rock Hill water spill that interrupted service across York County. They discuss how to keep it from happening again.

 

MUSC requests state’s permission to build and renovate facilities across SC

CHARLESTON, S.C. (postandcourier.com) The Medical University of South Carolina is hoping to build three new health facilities, as well as upgrades and renovations to other centers across the state. And they need five separate approvals from the state to do it.