JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – Neighbors and officials say high bacteria levels in the James Island Creek have long been a safety issue.
“I have a 4-year-old grandson that you know right now, it’s not very safe on any given day of the month in the summer for people to actually touch the water you know let along swim in it,” says Charleston City Councilwoman Carol Jackson. “I want to have a resource for him.”
Charleston Waterkeeper says bacteria levels in the James Island Creek can reach 10 to 20 times higher than the level safe for swimming, they say the main culprit driving the bacteria is sewage.
“We routinely find samples in James Island Creek that are a 1,000 [or] 10,000 – we even maxed out the ability of our tests to measure bacteria and that’s at 24,000,” says Charleston Waterkeep Executive Director Andrew Wunderly.
Charleston Waterkeeper officials say the bacteria levels in the James Island Creek skyrocket every heavy rain event and say the increased bacteria levels are likely a product of aging septic tanks near the creek.
“The majority of the fecal source of toxicity is coming from human waste,” says Councilwoman Jackson.
The James Island Creek Task Force, a combination of the City of Charleston, Town of James Island, state and local officials and residents is looking to address the problem with a goal of eliminating septic tanks by connecting the houses to sewer systems.
The group is seeking funding through South Carolina’s American Rescue Act funding with the help of state legislators in Columbia. If approved, the funding would be put towards converting the septic tanks to sewer lines.
“They’re giving high priority to infrastructure and especially water and sewer quality projects,” says Councilwoman Jackson.
The goal for the task force is to clean-up the creek and make it safer for those living nearby.
The task force is currently waiting for state leaders to discuss American Rescue Act funds later this year. State health officials have set a five-year mandate to get bacteria levels under control.