Charleston Waterkeeper testing water quality after Ian

When it seemed like Charleston was going to take a direct hit from Ian, Charleston Waterkeeper Executive Director Andrew Wunderley had some worries.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 3:18 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2022 at 6:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - When it seemed like Charleston was going to take a direct hit from Ian, Charleston Waterkeeper Executive Director Andrew Wunderley had some worries, since heavy rains and flooding can impact sewage treatment and collection and industrial sites along the Cooper River.

“Those are all sitting there at sea level and are susceptible to storm surge and its susceptible to flooding, and so in storm events and heavy rain and flood events they can wash all matter of contaminant and raw sewage and pollution into the Cooper River and into the harbor,” Wunderley said.

But Charleston avoided the worst of the storm, and the nice weather had since been in Wunderley’s favor.

“It’s been dry since Ian, so that means water quality should be improving and improving pretty quickly,” Wunderley said.

The team from Charleston Waterkeeper was out on the waterways Wednesday sampling bacteria to determine whether it’s safe to go swimming after Ian. The results will be available Friday morning.

“Rainfall is the biggest driver of water quality, and that’s why we sample bacteria every Wednesday, May through the end of October, so folks know when and where it’s safe to go swimming,” Wunderley said.

The state’s health department says several shellfish harvesting beds remain closed, including the shellfish management areas of Folly Beach, Sol Legare Island and Morris Island, as well as Seabrook Island, Kiawah Island and the Stono River.

“We want to make sure the oysters we’re eating are safe, we want to make sure they’re healthy, and so if all of that pollution especially bacteria’s present, harvesting is shut down,” Wunderley said.

For Charleston Outdoor Adventures, a kayak and paddleboard rental and tour company on Bowens Island, making sure the waterways are safe is vital.

“We do have out-of-town guests that don’t deal with a lot of hurricanes that are really apprehensive to come to Charleston not knowing whether there’s trees everywhere or buildings down or if it’s gonna be just as beautiful as this point right here,” owner Joseph Lotts said.

Lotts and Wunderley both say that we dodged a bullet with Ian.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of storms and hurricanes over the last 13 years out of here and I was very pleasantly surprised with that one,” Lotts said.

“If Ian is all we have to deal with it will be a really good season,” Wunderley said.