James Island waterway fails almost all bacteria tests for 5 years

Updated: May. 16, 2019 at 6:57 PM EDT
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JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - A James Island waterway is being given special attention from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control after it has consistently failed bacteria level tests.

Ellis creek has tested positive for dangerous level of bacteria again in the latest tests.

The waterway has failed 124 out of 136 bacteria level safety tests over the past five years. The water is tested every week from May to October to monitor bacteria levels. This waterway has had dangerously high levels of bacteria consistently. Only twelve tests out of five years have been deemed safe for swimmers.

The Charleston Waterkeeper Andrew Wunderley says multiple factors can cause these high levels.

“Bacteria can come from sewers, septic tanks, pet waste, animal waste, and discharge from boats,” Wunderley says.

He says anyone that gets in the water for any reason has a high risk of disease and infections.

“What you’re risking are infections of the ear nose and throat, skin infections such as rashes, and gastrointestinal infections,” Wunderley says.

One Ellis Creek property owner says she and her family have experienced those infections firsthand. Mary Edna Fraser and her family moved to the waterway thirty years ago but in the past seven years they have been getting ill after swimming.

“My whole family swims all day on pretty days,” Fraser says. “Now we have to keep our head above water because we get sick.”

She says when they moved here, they picked this spot of James Island for a reason. She says lately that reason is less evident.

“That’s why you buy property on the water is to have a good time, go swimming, invite your friends over to jump off the dock,” Fraser says. “Now if they jump off they get sick, I don’t want that.”

Because of the five years of consistently-failed tests, DHEC has opened a 30-day survey to collect input to create a cleanup plan and then make sure it’s executed.

CLICK HERE to take the survey.

The Charleston Waterkeeper says the solution to the polluted water won’t happen overnight since there are many moving pieces involved.

“It will be up to the town, city, and county to implement practices and upgrade structure to clean the creek and make it safe for swimming,” he says.

Once the 30-day DHEC survey is over they will decide what the best strategy is and then work with the municipalities to help make the waterway safe for recreational activities once again.

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