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Healthy People Living in Healthy Communities

Chapter 3: Environment

Protect, enhance and sustain environmental and coastal resources

It is the day-to-day services delivered by DHEC that help maintain the quality of South Carolina’s environment and protect the health of the public. Reducing the impact our daily lives have on the environment and the state’s coastal ecosystem is one of the many ways DHEC strives to fulfill its vision of healthy people living in healthy communities. Protecting these valuable resources ensures future generations will be able to safely live, work and relax in South Carolina.

DHEC mercury reduction initiative

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be toxic to people, wildlife and the environment. While naturally found in our air, water and soil, mercury also is released into the environment through numerous human activities, from industrial sources that burn coal to breaking or throwing away mercury-containing products at home. As a result of these activities, mercury cycles through the environment.

In 2008, DHEC began a mercury reduction initiative to reduce risk from mercury exposure. After a public comment period and discussions with numerous interested groups, DHEC finalized the Mercury Assessment and Reduction Initiative in 2010. This initiative seeks ways to: 1) assess and reduce mercury emissions; 2) continue and enhance risk communication; and 3) increase recycling of mercury-containing products.

One highlight of 2010 was the partnership between DHEC and the S.C. Dental Association (SCDA). Although dental offices represent less than 1 percent of all mercury emissions, studies have shown that dental offices are the leading contributor of mercury to wastewater. Dental offices can help to reduce mercury emissions to the environment by installing amalgam separators, which filter out the mercury for recycling. The SCDA and DHEC partnership recognizes the leadership of specific dental offices that have voluntarily installed amalgam separators as a way to improve the environment.

As of May 2011, 341 member dentists had been identified as leaders in taking this step to benefit their community and state. These dental offices received a certificate of recognition from SCDA and DHEC, and recognition on the SCDA website. The SCDA plans to encourage more dental offices to install the amalgam separators. In the present economy of extremely limited resources, this partnership serves to improve the environment by reducing mercury emissions at minimal cost to both SCDA members and DHEC.

Visit the website.

Shelly Wilson
(803) 896-8955

Public participation training and new community involvement website

In order to provide DHEC staff with a better understanding of public participation, the agency’s community liaison staff developed the “Fundamentals of Public Participation” training course in 2010. Because the public participation process is used extensively to work with communities to address local environmental concerns, all EQC staff members are required to take the 3.5-hour course. During the 2010-11 fiscal year, 56 classes were taught with more than 1,400 staff members completing the training. The training will be offered annually, or on an as-needed basis. To provide an ongoing information resource for the public, DHEC community liaison staff also created a new page on the DHEC website.

Nancy Whittle
(803) 896-8967

Meeting air quality standards

In March 2009, DHEC, on behalf of the governor, submitted South Carolina’s boundary recommendations for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (Ozone NAAQS). On September 16, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would reconsider the 2008 national ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone. The EPA is proposing to strengthen the 8-hour "primary" ozone standard, designed to protect public health, to a level within the range of 0.060-0.070 parts per million (ppm).

The EPA is also proposing to establish a distinct cumulative, seasonal "secondary" standard designed to protect sensitive vegetation and ecosystems, including forests, parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. The EPA is proposing to set the level of the secondary standard within the range of 7-15 ppm-hours.

As a result of the reconsideration announcement, the EPA is not expected to proceed with the boundary designation process for the 2008 ozone standard. DHEC’s goal is to stay ahead of the standards. The agency will continue efforts to reduce emissions that contribute to ozone pollution. A decision regarding the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone has been delayed. In a motion (pdf) filed with the court, the EPA predicts that it will release the new standard by the end of July 2011.

In 2009, the EPA determined that S.C. met the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the fine particles (PM2.5) measured over a 24-hour period. This being consistent with the requirements of the Clean Air Act, the EPA designated all of S.C. “unclassifiable/attainment.” “Unclassifiable” indicates that insufficient information is available to make a determination and “attainment” refers to the monitored values as being below the standard. (See below Ground-Level Ozone Design Values at Ozone Monitoring Sites in South Carolina.)

DHEC has worked with community multi-pollutant Clean Air Coalitions for the past several years on efforts to meet national air quality standards sooner than required. These coalitions continue to pursue actions that improve air quality in general. Their actions focus on multi-pollutant efforts that reduce emissions that contribute to ozone and particulate matter, and that also reduce air toxics and greenhouse gas emissions. Local stakeholders are more engaged than ever in air quality issues and in understanding how the decisions made locally impact air quality.

Visit the ozone website.

Visit the particulate matter website.

Nelson Roberts
(803) 898-4122

Ground-Level Ozone Design Values* at Ozone Monitoring Sites in South Carolina
 
Subject to 2008 EPA Standard
County Monitoring Site Location
2008 Design Value
2009 Design Value
2010 Design Value
Abbeville Due West
0.078
0.072
0.067
Aiken Jackson
0.076
0.075
0.069
Berkeley Bushy Park
0.063
0.060
0.062
Charleston Cape Romain
0.072
0.067
0.067
Cherokee Cowpens
0.074
0.067
0.069
Chesterfield Chesterfield
0.073
0.070
0.068
Colleton Ashton
0.073
0.067
0.066
Darlington Pee Dee
0.075
0.071
0.070
Edgefield Trenton
0.070
0.069
0.065
Oconee Long Creek
0.071
0.071
0.069
Pickens Clemson
0.080
0.075
0.072
Richland Congaree Bluff
0.071
0.067
0.065
Richland Parklane
0.078
0.072
0.070
Richland Sandhill
0.079
0.075
0.071
Spartanburg N. Spartan. FD
0.084
0.078
0.076
York York
0.077
0.072
0.067
 
2008 EPA Standard: 0.075 ppm
Design Values exceeding the 2008 Standard are written in boldface and italics.
Data Source: EPA Air Quality System database, accessed on February 22, 2010

The table above shows design values* for all ground-level ozone monitors in S.C. for which data is available. The EPA replaced the 1997 standard of 0.08 (rounded to 0.084) parts per million (ppm) with a more stringent standard of 0.075 ppm in 2008. Even as the state’s overall air quality is improving, the EPA continues to evaluate and lower standards for pollutants, thereby making it more challenging to meet the new standards.

*A design value is a calculation that describes the air quality of a given area relative to the EPA’s health-based limits, or standards. Design values are based on multiple years of ambient air data to ensure a stable indicator of an area’s air quality. Design values are used to classify nonattainment areas, assess progress toward meeting the standards, and to develop control strategies.

Increasing efficiency, reducing costs within lab certification

The S.C. Environmental Laboratory Certification program plays a critical behind-the-scenes role in environmental protection in the state. The purpose of the program is to provide the mechanism to assure the validity and quality of environmental data. It is an essential part of DHEC’s self-monitoring program. The data generated by environmental laboratories is used to determine whether permittees, such as municipalities and industries, are complying with state environmental regulations.

South Carolina regulation requires the formal certification of all laboratories reporting data to DHEC for regulatory compliance. It is important for the regulated community to know that DHEC’s regulatory decisions are based on scientifically valid and legally defensible data. With dwindling resources, DHEC has sought ways to make this program more efficient. For many years, it has administered the EPA’s Discharge Monitoring Report–Quality Assurance (DMR-QA) Study. In 2009, DHEC requested an exemption from the EPA study for the S.C. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permittees. The DMR-QA Study covers major and selected minor permit holders under the Clean Water Act’s NPDES program. The study requires the analysis and reporting of proficiency testing samples for the laboratories that perform the chemical, microbiological and toxicity testing analyses required by the NPDES permits.

With state coordinator approval, the EPA allowed permittees that use state-certified labs to be exempted from the DMR-QA Study. To reduce labor and cost, DHEC requested an exemption from the EPA for all of the NPDES permittees in S.C. In May 2009, DHEC received official notification from the EPA granting an exemption from the NPDES DMR-QA program, based on DHEC’s proficiency testing program requirements.

In August 2010, the EPA performed an inspection of the Laboratory Certification program to determine compliance with the exemption criteria for the DMR-QA study. Because the Laboratory Certification program utilizes DHEC’s Environmental Facility Information System (EFIS), the required information necessary to maintain our exemption was readily available to the EPA for review. The EFIS database has streamlined the review and follow-up actions for proficiency testing results from all of the laboratories certified by the program.

The use of EFIS to automate several other processes has increased efficiency and accountability in DHEC’s Laboratory Certification program. This same database tracks the review of applications, certifications, de-certifications, evaluations, payment of fees and pertinent laboratory information. At the same time, the EFIS database has helped to reduce the workload for the NPDES permittees along with their commercial laboratories.

Visit the website.

Carol F. Smith
(803) 896-0992

Mining permits involve citizen input and technical expertise

Mining is an industry necessary for supplying the minerals for our everyday needs. South Carolina has abundant mineral resources mined for use in building projects, road construction and maintenance, and manufacturing of products such as brick, paint and pharmaceuticals. Excavation of these resources is governed under the S.C. Mining Act. The objectives of the act are to provide public safety, protection of the environment and ensure mined lands are returned to a useful purpose.

Although essential, mining is a form of land disturbance that can be perceived as unfavorable. With proper planning, operation and reclamation, a mine can be operated with minimal risk and can result in an acceptable end use.

The functionality of the mine permitting process was highlighted with the review of an application submitted in 2008 by 2 COR, LLC to mine sand in Lexington County. The “Intent to Mine Notice” was published in The State newspaper, sent to adjacent landowners, and other local, state, and federal entities. In response to the notice, adjacent landowners requested a public hearing. Many questions and concerns were presented including: mine location, visual screening, noise, traffic patterns, public safety, depth, historic and cultural resources, the mineral intended to be mined, impacts to groundwater and surface water, dam safety, air quality, naturally occurring radiation (potentially present in kaolin), and reclamation bonding.

In coordination with DHEC, Lexington County enforced stormwater requirements more stringent than those proposed in the initial application. DHEC staff facilitated several meetings to discuss and determine appropriate stormwater design. The final decision evolved after separate meetings involving the county, the applicants' engineer, concerned citizens, a professor retained by the citizens with expertise in stormwater, and DHEC.

To address other issues, DHEC staff sought guidance from professionals in the field. These included DHEC’s State Toxicologist, agency staff from other programs, the S.C. Department of Archives and History, and the U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). After compiling the information and further researching the concerns, DHEC held a public meeting in December 2009. At the meeting, staff addressed the issues voiced and the application revisions, and responded to additional questions.

After a thorough technical review, DHEC approved the application with additional terms and conditions. At that time, all citizens attending or contacting DHEC were sent notice of the decision with a report outlining how all concerns were addressed. Several adjacent landowners appealed the decision, but after continuing to work with the landowners, the applicant and other entities, all issues were finally resolved and the permit issued in December 2010.

More than 1,900 mine permits and reclamation plans have been issued with conditions to address public safety, safeguard adjacent lands and waters, minimize erosion, and reduce potential hazards to wildlife. DHEC strives to involve citizens early in the application process to ensure concerns are adequately addressed. This results in permits developed to protect the public and the environment, and ensures reclamation of mined lands. Since the inception of the mining program in 1974, more than 17,000 acres of mined land have been reclaimed to a variety of uses including grasslands, parks, ponds, agricultural purposes, and commercial and residential development.

Visit the website.

Wendy Hamilton
(803) 896-4267

Many releases from underground storage tanks closed

South Carolina has a large number of Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) that contain petroleum products. By December 2010, there were 11,808 active regulated USTs located predominately at gasoline retail stations throughout the rural and urban areas of the state. When UST system failures occur and petroleum is released into the environment, DHEC utilizes risk-based corrective action (RBCA) procedures to determine appropriate clean-up levels that are protective of human health and the environment.

UST releases are problematic because drinking water wells and other receptors such as surface water bodies and utility structures can be detrimentally impacted. For sites with documented UST releases, DHEC’s goal is to assess and direct site rehabilitation efforts as appropriate to close these release projects. Using established RBCA procedures during 2010, staff closed 91 releases in the assessment stage where levels of petroleum impact were determined to be below federal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). Staff also closed 131 releases after the completion of approved cleanup activities where concentrations remained above MCLs, but at levels not posing an unacceptable risk to identified receptors. Of the 91 releases reaching closure in the assessment stage, 11 were closed using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.

As a means to protect human health, DHEC directs the installation of Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) units to treat water supply wells across the state that have been impacted by petroleum releases from USTs. During 2010, 11 new units were installed and more than 500 filter changes on all GAC units were conducted to provide safe water. The GAC units are installed and maintained until an alternate source of water can be provided to the entities affected by the petroleum release.

Visit the website.

Lee Monts
(803) 896-6677

Petroleum cleanup along Little Pee Dee River

On November 22, 2006, a gasoline release from an aboveground storage tank was first identified/ reported to the DHEC’s regional office Florence. This gasoline release migrated through groundwater and went into the Little Pee Dee River. The responsible party for the release was not fully capable of addressing the problem. The discharge is adjacent to a public boat ramp and a heavily traveled U.S. highway. People crossing the U.S. Highway 301/501 North Bridge and using the bridge boat ramp frequently noticed gasoline odors. Complaints were frequently filed with the agency’s Florence office.

Money from the DHEC Commissioner’s emergency fund was used to design a corrective action system to prevent gasoline from discharging to the swamp and river. A state contractor installed the system. During the installation, DHEC staff met with several individuals from the community to answer questions about what the agency was doing to address the problem. After the installation, two community meetings were held to explain our efforts to address the problem.

The responsible party has continued to remove gasoline as resources become available. DHEC staff members maintain the remediation system on a monthly basis. Operation of the system has been highly successful at removing free phase gasoline. No complaints have been received about odors or gasoline in the water around the bridge and boat ramp since July 2010. Recently, DHEC staff met with the S.C. Highway Department to discuss possible issues of the impact of the contamination on road and bridge maintenance issues.

Tom Knight
(803) 896-418

Recycling program receives national ‘Notable Achievement Award’

In November 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the Notable Achievement Award for a state program to DHEC. The agency’s recycling program was recognized for its outstanding contributions to achieving the goals of the EPA’s Resource Conservation Challenge, a national effort to conserve natural resources and energy by managing materials more efficiently.

The EPA noted that DHEC’s education and outreach efforts extended beyond the state’s schools to newer programs designed for industry and local governments. Those efforts included the following:

  • The Smart Business Recycling Program, a partnership between DHEC and the S.C. Commerce Department, which offers free, confidential, non-regulatory assistance to businesses. Services include site visits, technical assistance, research and contacts for potential vendors, workshops and a recognition program. In fiscal year 2008-09, 240 businesses were assisted and 29 site visits were conducted. Workshops were held in Chesterfield, Columbia, Greenville, Orangeburg and Sumter.
  • “Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow,” an award-winning K-8 environmental curriculum supplement, was developed by teachers and DHEC in conjunction with the S.C. Department of Education. Since its inception in 1993, nearly 50,000 teachers have been trained in the curriculum. In 2009, 1,211 teachers were trained at “Action” workshops, 24,344 students were reached through Action in the Classroom lessons, and 13,928 students received Green Driver Project lessons, teaching the environmental impact of driving.
  • DHEC’s Green Hospitality Program, a partnership with the S.C. Hospitality Association, formed the Green Hospitality Alliance in 2010 to offer a Green Hospitality Certification to hotel and restaurant applicants. Applicants are reviewed for energy efficiency, water conservation, green cleaning, recycling and waste reduction, ongoing maintenance and purchasing habits. As complement to the Hospitality Program, DHEC created a comprehensive airport recycling program with South Carolina’s four largest airports. They provide “Recycling-on-the-Go” options for more than five million travelers each year, in addition to airport employees.
  • Local government recycling employees are educated through Recycling Center Attendant Training and Recycling Professionals Certification. In addition, DHEC’s Recycle Guys continue to be recognized as one of the most popular and widely recognized icons of the recycling industry. Recycle Guys are used in at least 10 states and numerous local governments to promote recycling and reuse.

The EPA congratulated the DHEC on its diverse and multi-faceted programs, which demonstrate leadership and innovation in reducing the impact of solid waste on the environment and the economy.

Visit the website.

Richard Chesley
(803) 898-1327

Brownfields revitalized for productive reuse

DHEC’s Brownfields Program allows a non-responsible party to acquire a contaminated property with State Superfund liability protection for existing contamination. Brownfields are real properties, for which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse might be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.

Through Voluntary Cleanup Contracts, a non-responsible party agrees to perform an environmental assessment and/or remediation. The amount of environmental work is site specific and dependent on the intended future use of the site. The program goal is to facilitate redevelopment of a property intended to create new jobs and boost the state’s economy, while protecting human health and the environment.

During 2010, the Brownfields Program completed 21 Voluntary Cleanup Contracts, resulting in bringing approximately 400 acres of brownfields property into productive reuse. The program continued its environmental revitalization during the year, receiving 20 applications to enter properties into Voluntary Cleanup Contracts.

A prime example of how the Brownfields Program works to revitalize properties is the former Rock Hill Body Shop. The property was developed around 1900 for manufacture of coarse yarn, and the Victoria Yarn Shop #2 operated as a cotton mill. The mill operated until the Great Depression and closed around 1930. In 1936, Rock Hill Body began manufacturing truck bodies on this property. Operations included fabrication and painting of steel truck bodies, until operations ceased in 1987. Since that time, various tenants have occupied the three buildings for storage of salvaged/dry goods, a generator repair operation, steel and metal fabrication, and office space.

In 2008, the main building was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, due to the property's association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history in the textile and automotive industries.

Rock Hill Body Shop (Before)
Rock Hill Body Shop (After)
Rock Hill Body Shop (Before)
Rock Hill Body Shop (After)

A developer acquired and redeveloped the property for apartment and detached rental units. As part of the property's revitalization, the developer removed 300 tons of impacted soil at a cost of approximately $90,000 and recorded land use restrictions to ensure the property will continue to be safe for use as developed. The main historic building was retained and redeveloped into 21 apartment units. The two auxiliary buildings were razed and a mobile home was removed to make way for 18 detached rental units. Open green space was also created. The developer received an award of 4 percent and 9 percent Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and HOME program HUD funds, federal and state Historic Tax Credits, and state Textile Mill Tax Credits. A portion of the property was conveyed to the City of Rock Hill's Department of Parks and Recreation.

Rock Hill Body Shop Interior (Before)
Rock Hill Body Shop Interior (After)
Rock Hill Body Shop Interior (Before)
Rock Hill Body Shop Interior (After)
Detached Rental Homes
Detached Rental Homes

Visit the website.

Robert Hodges
(803) 898-0919

DHEC, local utilities partner to notify public of sewer system overflows

DHEC has long had a process for sewer utilities to report sewer system overflows. Historically, that information was entered into a tracking system, but was not quickly available to the public. To better inform the people who might be affected by a sewer system overflow, DHEC developed a new notification process in partnership with local sewer utilities.

Since local utilities are typically the first to know of an overflow, DHEC asked that they develop and implement a public notification process. In 2008, DHEC requested permitted dischargers to develop a public notification program for overflows of more than 5,000 gallons or overflows that might have a public health impact. DHEC staff provided a template to guide the utilities in developing their program, as well as a question-and-answer sheet to give more information.

The local utility itself decides how to notify the public. Methods include local newspaper, television, or radio announcements, and posting on-site signs. Most major municipal utilities have developed a program for notifying the public when significant sewer overflows occur. For smaller utilities with limited staff resources to handle timely notifications, DHEC has assisted them in releasing the information. This program has proven to be very effective in improving the timeliness of these highly important notifications. It has also helped ensure that local citizens can take action to protect themselves, their workplaces and their families.

Visit the website.

Glenn Trofatter
(803) 898-4233

Four environmental justice communities selected as pilot sites

In 2009, DHEC was one of five state environmental agencies selected to receive a 2009 Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In October 2009, DHEC sought proposals from local environmental justice communities interested in serving as pilot sites. By February 2010, DHEC had awarded four communities $25,000 each over a three-year period (2009-2012) to participate in LEAP (Leaders in Environmental Action Pilots).

The LEAP awardees included:

  • A Place for Hope, Blackmon Road Community, Rock Hill, S.C.
  • Community Development and Improvement Corporation, Graniteville, S.C.
  • The Imani Group, Aiken, S.C.
  • Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities, North Charleston, S.C.

The EPA and DHEC have worked closely with these communities to help them build capacity as they identified environmental and social justice concerns. Once issues are identified, partnerships will be established using a collaborative, problem-solving approach to begin revitalizing the community.

Nancy Whittle
(803) 896-8967