January 26, 2021

SC Enacts Stricter, Safer Bacteria Standard For Recreational Saltwaters

CHARLESTON — With the start of the 2021 Legislative session, a consistent and more protective bacteria standard for recreational saltwaters throughout the state is officially finalized.

This new water quality regulation is the result of a year-and-a-half long effort initiated by the Charleston Waterkeeper and the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) to better protect citizens who recreate in these waterways and to comply with current scientific findings.

Regulation 61-68, Water Classifications and Standards was amended so both Class SA and Class SB saltwaters have the same daily maximum enterococci standard of 104 MPN per 100 ml. Enterococci are bacteria that indicate the presence of fecal waste and disease-causing pathogens in water.

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“This is big win for public health and anyone that likes to swim, paddle, boat, or just jump off the neighborhood dock. Nobody should have to risk getting sick just to take a swim. Our local creeks and rivers deserve the highest levels of water quality protection. We’re glad DHEC and the General Assembly recognize that too and acted to close this loophole,” said Waterkeeper Andrew Wunderley.

The new regulation will emphasize the severity of bacteria impairment in all such waters, highlight restoration priorities and hopefully help speed cleanup of many popular and iconic recreational waterways.

“This is an important first step towards improving the water quality of coastal waterways that desperately need it, such as Shem Creek here in Mount Pleasant,” said SCELP staff attorney Leslie Lenhardt. “We will continue our efforts with our partner Charleston Waterkeeper to protect and improve the waters we use and enjoy in the Charleston area.”

Background information on the organizations’ petition to improve South Carolina’s recreational water quality standards can be read here and here.

Media contacts:
Andrew Wunderley
Charleston Waterkeeper
andrew@charlestonwaterkeeper.org, (843) 906-7073

Leslie Lenhardt, Esquire
South Carolina Environmental Law Project
leslie@scelp.org, (843) 527-0078

Charleston Waterkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore Charleston’s Waterways for our community and for future generations. We do that through unique mix of boots-on-the-water stewardship and data-driven advocacy designed to protect the public’s right to clean water for fishing and swimming.

South Carolina Environmental Law Project is a nonprofit public interest law firm. Its mission is to protect the natural environment of South Carolina by providing legal services and advice to environmental organizations and concerned citizens and by improving the state’s system of environmental regulation.

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