MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)- An approval for grant funding is all that stands in the way of 100 septic tanks being removed from the Shem Creek watershed.

Mount Pleasant Waterworks has applied for the money and will know in January if they have been given it.

“It’s a watershed approach that Mount Pleasant Waterworks is working on,” said Allan Clum, the General Manager of Mount Pleasant Waterworks. “Shem Creek has long suffered from high bacterial loading, total maximum daily load (of pollutants) and an impaired water body. The removal of these septic tanks will certainly go a long way to help remedy that problem.”

If the application is approved, the process to remove the tanks from homes and businesses will begin.

“If we receive the funding we have until 2026 to complete the work. We will do a phased approach. We will do specific areas as they make sense,” said Clum.

The septic tanks are believed to be decades old and tanks that are unstable can leak sewage into Shem Creek, especially when it rains or floods.

 “Our swim alert testing frequently shows high levels of bacteria in Shem Creek. One of the main contributors to bacteria levels can be septic tanks,” said Andrew Wunderly, the Executive Director of Charleston Waterkeeper.

“Over time they start to saturate the ground. The ground becomes saturated with bacteria,” said Wunderly. Higher ground water tables, heavy storms, heavy floods and higher sea levels have caused these things to really be malfunctioning.”

The Town of Mount Pleasant has given people who live on Charleston County property an option to receive sewer service from Mount Pleasant Waterworks without joining the Town because of the potential for the septic tanks to be removed.

“There was a three decades old law that said ‘in order for you to get sewer you have to annex into the town,'” said Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie. “With this once in a lifetime opportunity, our council unanimously amended that policy that if you are an existing single family residence, you have a septic tank and sewer is made available by Waterworks you no longer have to annex.”

Other measures to help the health of Shem Creek need to be explored in Mayor Haynie’s opinion.

“We need to look down the road into the future and see if those who don’t have sewer available, who are on septic tanks, if there’s a way that Mount Pleasant Water Works can set up a program to help with the maintenance and replacement of those tanks when they fail,” said Mayor Haynie. “Failing septic tanks are the biggest issue that we have for the cleanliness of waterways like Shem Creek.”