Just how healthy the Twenty-Five Mile Creek watershed is will be the subject of a public meeting to be held Wednesday at Elgin Town Hall at 6 p.m. Kershaw County and consulting firm AMEC Environment & Infrastructure, will present plans to improve environmental issues in the creek’s watershed.
Last year, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) awarded a grant to Kershaw County to develop a watershed-based plan for improving the watershed’s quality. Wednesday night’s meeting will gather information from residents to be used to write those plans and apply for grants to help implement them.
The watershed’s two main issues are high levels of fecal coliform bacteria and a decreased number of insects present in the water, according to Kershaw County Engineer Dana Reeder.
“That is a quick indication that something could be wrong,” Reeder said of the low insect count.
A low insect count can be an important indicator of a stream’s health, just as a canary is used by miners to indicate the quality of the air in coal mines, AMEC project scientist Angela Vandelay said.
Fecal coliform is a sign that disease-causing pathogens from mammal waste might be present in the water.
Twenty-Five Mile Creek flows into the Wateree River and supplies water for recreation, drinking and water for treatment processes at Lugoff’s INVISTA plant. The watershed covers parts of Kershaw County (including portions of Elgin and Lugoff), Richland County and a small portion of Fairfield County. DHEC’s water monitoring station for the watershed is located in Lugoff.
Watershed quality issues can lead to health hazards for humans and animals.
Reeder hopes that identifying issues and applying a solution might prevent DHEC from having to establish a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for insects in Twenty-Five Mile Creek’s watershed. A TMDL could have a financial impact as it would require payments for sampling and for its implementation.
“Just the cost of sampling can be expensive. Many towns, especially small towns, do not have a budget for water sampling,” Reeder said.
The watershed-based plans that will be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting can provide the opportunity for grants which can be used to offset the costs of implementing the plans
In the past, Kershaw County has worked on other projects to help improve water quality throughout the county.
The Blaney Fire Department house in Elgin, Camden’s Town Green and the Bethune Recreation Center were built on pervious concrete. This type of concrete allows water to soak back into the ground, filtering and recharging ground water.
“The whole idea is to get as close as possible to natural conditions. If water goes into the ground, then it has a better chance to get cleaned up before it reaches a stream,” Reeder explained.
Hard, paved surfaces prevent water from soaking into the ground and can result in water running too quickly into the creek before it has the opportunity to filter. High volume water runoff can also cause erosion.
Reeder and Vandelay hope residents in the Twenty-Five Mile Creek watershed will attend Wednesday’s meeting.
“We want people to learn about this, know about the problems and participate in the solutions,” Vandelay said.