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New ordinance proposed to reduce human waste in James Island Creek

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:19 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 7:15 PM EDT
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JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - After years of concern over poor water quality and high levels of bacteria at James Island Creek, the Town of James Island is considering an ordinance aimed at solving the issue.

The water quality issues at places like the Ellis Creek Bridge are mainly caused by humans, according to Emily Cedzo with the Coastal Conservation League.

“Human waste is by far the highest contributor to the water quality issues happening in the creek,” she said.

James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey said he blames septic systems.

“We believe that failed septic systems are one of the key causes of water pollution issues in James Island Creek,” he said.

Town Council is considering an ordinance requiring homeowners to have their septic systems inspected at least every three years, as recommended by DHEC, according to Woolsey. Homeowners would also have to regularly maintain or replace their septic systems, if necessary.

“If it is warranted, those septic systems should be pumped out,” Woolsey said. “Depending on the size of the tank and the size of the family, it could be done each year. But for small families with large septic tanks, it could be 18 years.”

Council is also considering extending sewer into areas that currently depend on aging septic systems. Woolsey said this would cost about $8 million, and thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan, the ability to fund this project could be easier.

“That’s the long term answer, to move people off these septic tanks and move them onto sewer,” he said.

Cedzo said having both short-term fixes like septic system maintenance and long-term goals is the key to cleaning up the creeks for good.

“At the end of the day, addressing especially human waste in our waterways in 2021 is incredibly appropriate and necessary,” she said. “I think it’s a priority to start there and continue assessing what that data looks like over time.”

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