Conservation leaders work to mitigate pollution and threats to Lowcountry waterways

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CHARLESTON S.C. (WCBD) – A historic settlement has been reached on behalf of the Charleston Harbor after nurdles, or plastic pellets, were found throughout the harbor and marsh. According to the Charleston Waterkeeper, the settlement from Frontier Logistics was just the beginning. 

Andrew Wunderley with the Charleston Waterkeeper said in the Lowcountry, “you’ve always got one foot in the water and one foot on land, and anything that ends up on the ground here, ends up in the water.” While the nurdles polluted the waterways, Wunderley said there’s more that lies beneath the surface.

Whether it’s plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, or plastic pellets, Wunderley said it’s only one rainstorm or flooding event away from ending up in the water. However, Charleston Waterkeeper’s work goes further than keeping the water clean; their efforts are also about safety. 

According to Wunderly, no one can tell whether or not a waterway is safe to swim without knowing the bacteria levels. This is why the Charleston Waterkeeper has a monitoring program from May through the end of October. That program samples bacteria at 15 different recreational hotspots so the public knows when and where it is safe to go swimming.  

But, of course, the group only knows what they are looking for.

Now, the Charleston Waterkeeper, along with NOAA, is conducting a pilot study where silicone wristbands have been installed on water sampling sites. Those wristbands stay out in the marine environment for one month. Then, the groups go back out and collect them before sending them over to the lab in NOAA where they are analyzed for those different kinds of contaminates. 

While they are just in the beginning stages of the deployment and retrieval of the bands, they are currently generating the data. Wunderly said he is now looking forward to seeing what that science says.  

But ultimately, the condition of our waterways is the result of our actions. 

On Saturday, there will be a creek cleaning at the Noisette Creek in North Charleston. For those interested in joining the fight for clean water, click here.

For more on the Charleston Waterkeeper, click here.

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