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Coastal Carolina University opens new Environmental Quality Lab

May 1, 2009

Coastal Carolina University officials cut the ribbon April 29 to open the new and expanded Environmental Quality Laboratory. The facility, which directs many analytical chemistry and microbiology research projects that impact the region, has moved from the R. Cathcart Smith Science Center building to its new location across U.S. 501 in the Coastal Science Center on the University's East Campus.

The new facility is approximately three times larger than the former lab, with 2,674 square feet spread over five rooms. Established in 1991, the Environmental Quality Lab is one of the essential components of the University's Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies.

"The lab has played an important role in the life of the community and the university, linking education, faculty-student research, public outreach and technical services," said Susan Libes, professor of marine science and program director of the lab. She says the new facility will position the lab to undertake higher level projects.

A number of long-term, community-based studies conducted through the Environmental Quality Lab have had far-reaching consequences for the Grand Strand/Waccamaw region. The lab has conducted many water quality monitoring projects along the local coastline, working with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to determine the public safety of area beaches and of stormwater draining systems. The Environmental Quality Lab was the first lab in the state to be certified by DHEC to measure enterococci bacteria.

The lab also handles all research conducted through the Waccamaw Watershed Academy, such as a large-scale volunteer pollution monitoring program encompassing the Waccamaw River system and the Murrells Inlet Estuary in Horry and Georgetown counties. More recently, the lab has begun a project that measures oxygen in the ocean water at the Apache Campground pier.

Joseph T. Bennett is the technical director of the Environmental Quality Lab.