Tag Archives: flooding

DHEC in the News: Charleston flooding, Tropical Storm Irma damage, removable seawalls, West Nile

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

Downtown Charleston is flooding more, with or without hurricanes. Here’s why

CHARLESTON David and Claudia Cohen were busy raking debris from their yard and reflecting on Charleston’s third big flood in three years when a car whizzed down Gibbes Street near the Holy City’s historic Battery.

Driving the auto was a neighbor, who slowed just enough to yell sarcastically about Charleston’s watery troubles.

“I’m getting a couple of cyanide pills,’’ the neighbor wisecracked through the rolled-down window. …

Rising sea levels and major storms are swamping streets, neighborhoods and popular tourist attractions with a frequency and intensity that is hard for many people to ignore. The flooding is affecting millions of dollars worth of property in South Carolina’s oldest city, one of the state’s top vacation destinations.

How Tropical Storm Irma damaged South Carolina’s coastal communities

Even though the South Carolina coast was 200 miles or more from the eye of Tropical Storm Irma, the state’s beaches and barrier islands did not escape her wrath.

All of them saw some degree of damage from high winds and rising water. In some cases, beach sand was carried several blocks inland.

Most communities were still assessing their situations at the end of the week, a process that officials said could take months.

Studies at odds on removable seawalls as storm waves slam South Carolina beachfront homes

The surf from Tropical Storm Irma swamped past the pillars meant to prop up the experimental removable seawalls that advocates hoped would protect resort homes in the Wild Dunes and Harbor Island communities.

Whether the removed walls would have made a difference, however, remains in dispute as property owners, conservationists and the state wait on the courts to decide their future.

Meanwhile, the research done so far on their effectiveness is inconclusive.

Mayor Rhodes: “We have just one isolated case of West Nile. And we’re on top of it.”

Myrtle Beach, S.C. — In a Friday evening video message posted to the Myrtle Beach City Government’s Facebook page, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes told residents there is a case of West Nile Virus in Myrtle Beach.

City officials said the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed the virus Friday.

Flood waters and standing water can be hazardous

Hurricane Irma is still considered a dangerous storm for South Carolina, even with the current projected models showing reduced risk to the state. There is still a high risk of flooding and downed utility lines across the state.

Flood waters are nothing to play with or to take for granted. Exercise caution.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown!

No matter how harmless it might appear, avoid driving, wading or walking in flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

Beware of hazards below

All too often, danger lurks within and beneath flood waters and standing water.

DHEC urges everyone not to use area streams, rivers or the ocean for drinking, bathing or swimming due to the possibility of bacteria, waste water or other contaminants. Avoid wading through standing water due to the possibility of sharp objects, power lines or other hazardous debris that might be under the surface.

Follow these steps if you come into contact with flood waters or standing waters:

  • Avoid or limit direct contact.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap, especially before drinking and eating.
  • Do not allow children to play in flood water, or play with toys contaminated with flood water.
  • Report cuts or open wounds, and report all symptoms of illness. (Keep vaccinations current.)

Visit the DHEC website for more information on Hurricane Irma, avoiding flood waters and more. In addition, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for more information on avoiding contact with flood waters or the Centers for Disease Control’s page on risks associated with flood waters and standing water.

 

Returning Home after a Hurricane

Although Hurricane Matthew has moved on, it left behind potential dangers South Carolinians must avoid. In the days immediately following a hurricane, serious concerns often remain about flooding, power outages, and health and safety.

DHEC urges you to take precautions as you encounter potential dangers relating to water safety, food safety, animals and insects and a variety of other concerns.

Some people might not be able to return home immediately. Do not attempt to re-enter your neighborhood until authorities have declared the area safe.

We want you to return home safely. Here are some general tips and resources for clean-up when you do:

Clean-Up After the Hurricane

  • Throw away any toys that have touched floodwater.
  • During clean-up, wear gloves and regularly wash hands in clean water (boiled if from private well or under a boil water advisory/notice) with soap.
  • Once all water has been drained from your home, if you are concerned about water damage or mold, call a professional in your area. See the Yellow Pages under Mold Remediation or Water Damage Restoration.
  • You can make a cleaning disinfectant from one cup of bleach combined with five gallons of clean, boiled water. Try to clean any walls, floors or furniture that may have had contact with floodwaters.
  • Upholstered furniture and mattresses should be air dried in the sun and sprayed with disinfectant, if possible.  Steam clean rugs and replace filters in ventilation systems. Flooded items that cannot be cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours should be discarded.

Smell Gas?

  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main valve, open all windows, and get out of the house immediately.
  • Do not turn on the electricity, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark.
  • Immediately notify the gas company as well as your local fire and police departments.
  • Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.

Handling Electrical Damage

  • If you see frayed wiring or sparks when you restore power, or if there is an odor of something burning but no visible fire, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker.
  • You should follow the instruction provided by your utility company or emergency preparedness agency about using electrical equipment, including power generators. Be aware that it is against the law and a violation of electrical codes to connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices.
  • If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In addition, the improper connection of a generator to your home’s electrical circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area. Make sure all electrical equipment and appliances are completely dry before returning them to service. It is advisable to have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question.

Mosquitoes

Protect yourself against mosquitoes that show up heavy rain and might carry viruses: Wear long-sleeved clothing and avoid being outdoors during dusk and dawn. If you must be outside when mosquitoes are active, applying a mosquito repellent – either a spray or wipe – to your skin or clothing will help protect you from bites.  Just make sure to use products containing one of the four active ingredients that have been registered and approved as safe and effective by the EPA.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Be sure to rid your property of standing water; empty and turn over any containers around your home that hold water.

More resources for returning home and safety are available on DHEC’s website.

For updates on DHEC hurricane response efforts and updates, visit www.scdhec.gov/HurricaneMatthew.

Asbestos Removal and Safety for Homeowners after 2015 SC Floods

By Robin Mack, DHEC Asbestos Program Manager

When working on cleanup and rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster like the South Carolina floods of 2015, it is important to be aware of potential asbestos-containing materials that could pose a health risk if not handled properly. Disturbing materials made with asbestos during building repairs, renovations, or demolitions can release asbestos fibers or dust particles into the air allowing them to be ingested or inhaled.

Health Risks from Asbestos Exposure

People who are exposed to large amounts of asbestos over a time, such as contractors, and do not follow safety standards have an increased chance of experiencing harmful health effects. Asbestos can contribute to the development of lung cancer or other respiratory diseases. Disease symptoms may take many years to develop after being exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos in Homes

It is less common to find large quantities of asbestos in newer homes, but homes built before 1980 are the most likely to have asbestos containing materials.  Asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials, such as: siding, ceiling and floor tiles, stucco, sheetrock, joint compound, ceiling texture (popcorn ceiling), caulking, construction mastic, insulation, and roofing materials.

If you think your home contains asbestos, it is best to call a licensed professional to remove it. To find a list of licensed contractors that can perform asbestos abatement and demolition activities in South Carolina, click here.

Minimizing Asbestos Exposure
If homeowners decide to do work on their homes themselves or hire a non-licensed asbestos contractor, the following work practices and procedures should be followed to minimize possible airborne asbestos fiber releases and exposure:

  1. Keep the material wet at all times to help keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. A low pressure garden sprayer adjusted to “mist” works well.
  2. Avoid tearing, ripping, chipping, cutting, or grinding materials that may contain asbestos, such as those listed above. These actions increase the potential for asbestos fibers to be released.
  3. Do not throw or drop materials that may contain asbestos to the ground. Instead, lower them carefully to prevent breakage and release of fibers to the air.
  4. Please sort flood debris into categories according to the graphic below to help speed up the collection process. For any questions about debris pick-up or drop-off, please contact your local waste management program.
Graphic provided by SCDOT

Graphic provided by SCDOT

For more information about asbestos, click here or call (803) 898-4289.

Tips for Disposing of Debris after a Natural Disaster

By Kent Coleman, Director of DHEC Division of Solid Waste Management 

After a natural disaster like a hurricane or flood, many residents have to undertake the process of cleaning up and disposing of a wide variety of debris from their home and yard. Here are some tips to help storm debris disposal go smoothly.

  1. Recycle as much as you can to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills. Everything from water bottles to electronics can be recycled at many locations. To find recycling locations  and a list of materials accepted, click here or contact your local waste management program.
  2. Do not burn debris or trash as it can impact the air quality and create additional hazards.
  3. Sort your debris into five categories to help speed up the pick-up process:
    • Vegetative debris – Tree branches, leaves, logs & plants. DO NOT BAG this material.
    • Construction/Demolition material – Carpet, drywall, furniture, lumber, mattresses, plumbing materials, shingles and tiles.
    • Appliances – Air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, stoves, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers.
    • Electronics – Computers, televisions, stereos, radios and other devices with an electrical cord.
    • Household Hazardous Waste – Cleaning supplies, lawn chemicals, oils, oil-based paints and stains, pesticides
  4. Do not put normal household trash or bagged debris of any kind out for flood-debris collection. Please continue to follow normal garbage removal schedules for regular household trash.
  5. Debris should be placed curbside without blocking storm drains or the roadway.
  6. If you have or will receive insurance proceeds for the removal or disposal of flood generated debris, do not place on right-of-way for collection.
Sorting Debris

Graphic provided by SCDOT

Because of the high volume of debris needing to be collected after the devastating 2015 flooding, SCDOT is assisting municipalities with debris collection. If you have any questions about debris collection, please contact your local waste management program.

For more information on disaster recovery public and environmental health topics, click here.