Charleston Waterkeepers survey damage and collect samples post-Matthew

Charleston Waterkeepers survey damage and collect samples post-Matthew
Water samples collected from around Charleston (Source: Live 5)
Water samples collected from around Charleston (Source: Live 5)
Abandoned boats in marsh (Source: Live 5)
Abandoned boats in marsh (Source: Live 5)
Major damage to a backyard on James Island (Source: Live 5)
Major damage to a backyard on James Island (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston Waterkeeper crews were out on the water taking samples from Charleston's waterways in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

The group's mission is to protect, promote, and restore the quality of Charleston's waterways while creating a more engaged public through education and outreach.

Eight samples were collected, by boat, from the Ashley River, Harbor View Road, Battery Beach, Hobcaw Creek, the USS Yorktown, and Shem Creek.

The samples are then sent to a laboratory at the College of Charleston to see what kind of changes have occurred.

"We'll probably see bacteria levels from today's sampling comparable to what we see after a rainfall event at any event during the sampling season," said waterkeeper Andrew Wunderley.

The group does weekly testing from May until the end of October.

Wunderley said the appearance of the water Wednesday, compared to this time last year, is completely different, especially after dealing with last year's the historic flood.

"It was this opaque reddish brown color, and that persisted for about a month afterward," Wunderley said.

Collection is taken between 10 and 12 inches from the surface of the water, then sealed in the container, and placed in a cooler where it's kept between zero and 10 degrees Celsius.

"That's to prevent any growth from the time we collect the sample until the time we get it into the lab to analyze," Wunderley said.

Those samples then take 24 hours to sit and be analyzed.

As for Matthew's immediate damage along the waterways in Charleston, a lot could be seen.

"We've got another abandoned boat here 200 or 300 yards into the marsh," Wunderley pointed out off the waterway of James Island.

Several boats can be found abandoned in the marshes. Many of them already tagged days after Matthew came through Charleston.

Other debris including chairs and plastics can be found as well.

"We're already scouting some cleanup sites where we've seen quite a bit of plastic material," Wunderley said.

Many docks in the Charleston area saw severe damage as well. The dock at the James Island Yacht Club has many gaps in its floating dock.

"Wow, it's just amazing," Wunderley said. "It's terrible. You can see this is where the storm really did some damage."

Meanwhile, smaller homeowner docks along James Island, were completely destroyed. Lumber from the walkways could be seen along the jetties.

One property along the Charleston Harbor on James Island is dealing with severe damage following the hurricane. A sinkhole appears to have opened up in the backyard, which is situated between neighboring homes' seawalls.

"If you neighbor builds a seawall, what he's doing is pushing the erosion over onto your yard," Wunderley said. "This guy's yard eroded because he's got seawalls on both sides of him. So the wave action is forcing in between those two seawalls and just tearing all that out."

Charleston is still seeing higher water levels than normal because of the storm surge that came with Hurricane Matthew. Many of the inland areas that flooded are still trying to rid itself of the water.

Wunderley estimates it could take at least a week for the level to even out.

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