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Environmental Quality Control (EQC)

Deepwater Horizon Spill & Possible Impact on Our State

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on July 30, 2010 that a new analysis showed that the East Coast is unlikely to experience any effects from the remaining oil on the surface of the gulf as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
  • DHEC has been working with the U.S. Coast Guard to plan for the potential impact of this spill on our coast. Based on what we know we believe that there is a very low probability of this happening.
  • DHEC has analyzed samples for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Volatile Organic Compounds in addition to our regular beach monitoring samples at select locations. This will provide background water quality information and helps detect any impact from the Deepwater Horizon spill. At this time, DHEC does not have the resources to analyze samples collected by the public.
  • As of July 15,2010, the well has been shut in. No oil is currently leaking into the Gulf from the Deepwater Horizon well.
  • If conditions change, and should oil reach the Atlantic Ocean and affect our state, the Coastal S.C. Area Contingency Plan would be implemented and a unified command structure would be activated. This will include the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DHEC, and the Department of Natural Resources, as well as the responsible party, British Petroleum (BP). Numerous other federal, state and local agencies would also be involved.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists monitor the currents and the oil’s path daily. IF the heavier oil and/or tar balls were to reach the southern tip of Florida, some 500 miles from our state, it would take about five days for the oil to be off our coast.
  • IF the oil did reach the waters off the coast of SC, it would be carried by the Gulf Stream current, which is 50 to 60 miles off the coast.
  • Warm water eddies that come from the Gulf Stream could move heavily weathered oil toward our coast.
  • IF this happened, the oil would be so heavily weathered that dispersants and burning may not be effective.
  • IF oil from this spill does impact our coast, BP would still be considered the responsible party. They would be expected to participate in the unified command and provide resources for the response.
  • The most likely impacts that we would see from the oil spill would be a few tar balls.
  • IF oil reaches our coast, the public will be notified by signs on beaches, media reports and our website at www.scdhec.gov/beach