High bacteria levels found in Lowcountry waterways

Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 9:31 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Before heading out for a swim in Lowcountry waterways, Charleston Waterkeeper encourages people to do some research first.

From May to October, the Charleston Waterkeeper samples 15 recreational hot spots every Wednesday.

The latest results from the water quality tests reveal ten areas with high bacteria levels.

“This is our eighth season of sampling now and just last week we had high results in a number of popular areas for swimming, paddling, and jumping off docks,” Charleston’s Waterkeeper Andrew Wunderley said. “Shem Creek showed high results. James Island showed high results, and we even had rare high results at the Folly Beach boat landing and the cove behind Sullivan’s island.”

Wunderley says the high bacteria levels are the result of heavy rain which fills the waterways with animal waste and sometimes sewer overflows.

He says the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control has reported 18 sewer overflows in Charleston County this year.

For people going out to swim or participating in recreational activities out on contaminated waterways, Wunderley suggests washing up afterwards.

"What we're talking about is the risk of illness. The state standard for recreational use is set at a level where you expect 19 out of 1,000 swimmers to get sick, and you'd expect those swimmers to get ear, nose, and throat infections," Wunderley said.

There are two active cleaning efforts happening for Shem Creek and James Island Creek.

Patrick Moore spends time with his children at a neighborhood boat landing along the James Island Creek. He says he's excited to have a task force that will tackle the issues preventing his kids from swimming in the water after a rainfall.

"It's a public health issue, it's about the health of our kids, neighbors, our friends," Moore said. "The problems are known, identifiable, and addressable so it's just a matter of time and money."

For more information about the waterways that are sampled, click here for the Charleston Waterkeeper.

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