2016 List of Impaired Waters

On April 1st the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released their 2016 draft list of impaired waters, also called the 303(d) list.  The Clean Water Act requires states to develop a list every two years of waterbodies that don’t meet water quality standards. The list is developed primarily from DHEC’s water quality monitoring data, as well as some data collected by outside organizations. It includes a location, the use that is impaired, and the cause of the impairment. The uses are based on the Clean Water Act’s goals of fishable, swimmable, drinkable water that is capable of supporting the survival and propagation of a balanced indigenous aquatic community and are described as aquatic life support, recreational use support and fish consumption.

You can view the 2016 report, including methodology and appendices here.

The 2016 303(d) list includes 42 sites and seven different types of impairments in the Lower Broad, Lower Saluda and Congaree River watersheds that make up the Congaree Riverkeeper jurisdiction.  View the impaired waters list here.

Impaired Waters
Use Cause # of Sites
Aquatic Life (AL) Macroinvertebrates (BIO) 17
Aquatic Life (AL) Copper (CU) 3
Aquatic Life (AL) Disolved Oxygen (DO) 3
Aquatic Life (AL) Turbidity 1
Aquatic Life (AL) pH 1
Recreational Use (REC) E. coli 11
Fish Consumption (FISH) Mercury (HG) 6
Total   42

Four new sites were listed as impaired this year, one for recreational use and three for aquatic life use.

  • S-298 - Saluda River at USGS gaging station below I-20 - REC - ECOLI
  • B-320 - Big Cedar Creek at SC 215 - AL - BIO
  • S-287 - Rawls Creek at S-32-107 - AL - BIO
  • S-507 - Stoops Creek at Bush River Rd - AL - BIO

Two sites were removed from the list this year because they attained the recreational standard for E. coli.

  • C-074 - Congaree River, West Boundary of Congaree NP - REC  - ECOLI - Standard Attained
  • C-072 - Toms Creek at SC 48 - REC - ECOLI - Standard Attained

TMDLs
The 303(d) list also includes a list of all developed Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs.  TMDLs are pollution reduction calculations designed to help waterbodies meet water quality standards and restore uses.  The 2016 list includes 31 sites.  29 of the sites are listed as impaired for recreational use and two are listed for aquatic life support impaired by dissolved oxygen (Gills Creek at Bluff Rd. is listed for both).  Seven of the sites with developed TMDLs are described as fully supporting the listed use.  View the TMDL list here.

TMDLs

Use

Cause

Fully Supported

Not Supported
Recreational Use Fecal Coliform 6 21
Recreational Use E. coli 0 2
Aquatic Life Dissolved Oxygen 1 1
Total   7 24

Three new sites were listed this year in areas that already have established TMDLs.

  • RS-07216 - Congaree Creek at S-32-168 - REC - ECOLI - Not Supported
  • EQ-3457 - Twelvemile Creek at Barr Rd - REC - ECOLI - Not Supported
  • RS-09323 - Lightwood Knot Branch at Trenholm Rd Extension - REC - FC - Fully Supported

It is important to note that in the 2016 list site B-834 - Broad River at Columbia Diversion Canal no longer fully supports recreational use because of high fecal coliform numbers.  Also, Site B-316 - Crane Creek below I-20 is still listed as fully supporting recreational use despite the fact that it hasn't been sampled by DHEC in over 10 years and is the exact location of millions of gallons of sewer spills.

While the water quality data collected by Congaree Riverkeeper was not used by DHEC in this listing cycle it will be used to develop the 2018 303(d) list.

You can read more about the 303(d) list, TMDLs and view past lists on DHEC’s website here:  http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Water/ImpairedWaters/Overview

UPDATE:

After we posted this yesterday we got several questions and comments.  Here's a Q&A to help answer some of them...

Q: How does a waterbody get listed as impaired for recreational use?
A: Basically, if more than 10% of the samples collected at a site exceed the state standard then the waterbody is considered impaired.

Q: What is the cause of the recreational impairment at the Saluda River below I-20 (S-298)?
A: Site S-298 is listed as impaired for recreational use because of high E. coli bacteria numbers.  This is likely caused by a combination of factors including discharges from the 6 upstream wastewater treatment plants, sewer spills, and stormwater runoff from urban streams.

Q: What other waterbodies are impaired for recreational use?
A: According to DHEC 34 sites in the Midlands are impaired for recreational use, including sites on the Broad, Saluda and Congaree Rivers.

Q: Does this mean I will get sick if go kayaking, tubing or fishing at these sites?
A: Not necessarily, but there is an increased risk, especially at certain times.

Q: How can I reduce my risk of getting sick?
A: Bacteria levels are usually highest in the 24-48 hours after a rain event, you should generally avoid contact recreation during those times.  Also, check for alerts about possible sewer spills and wastewater plant upsets before getting on the water and pay attention to conditions (check if anything looks or smells unusual).

Q: Should I just burn my paddling/fishing gear and never go to the river again?
A: No, you should make rational and informed decisions about your river recreation activities.  But, this should be a call to action to demand that our regulatory agencies and elected officials take the necessary steps to cleanup and protect our rivers.