Horry and Georgetown counties and municipalities have joined forces to tackle stormwater issues and maintain the quality of water resources in the coastal area.
This cooperative effort takes the form of the newly organized Coastal Waccamaw Stormwater Education Consortium (CWSEC).
Representatives from Horry and Georgetown counties and the municipalities of North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and Conway formally endorsed the agreement in a June 1 resolution signing ceremony at Coastal Carolina University in Conway.
This joint effort addresses a regional need for minimizing polluted stormwater runoff.
"Population growth, residential and industrial development and resulting changes to the landscape have led to stormwater quality and quantity concerns in South Carolina," said Cal Sawyer, Clemson University Extension Service water quality coordinator.
Public education and involvement is a required component of a new EPA regulation called the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II stormwater program.
The following groups have agreed to provide educational services to the cooperating municipalities: Clemson University"s Carolina Clear Program, Coastal Carolina University"s Waccamaw Watershed Academy, North Inlet-Winyah Bay Estuarine Research Reserve's Coastal Training Program, the S.C. Sea Grant Extension Program, Murrells Inlet 2007 and the Waccamaw Riverkeeper.
The CWSEC provides a cost-effective means of addressing this new regulatory need while providing a consistent stormwater education message throughout northeastern South Carolina.
"The CWSEC is about the 3 E's: Education, Economy and Ecology," said Susan Libes, professor of marine science at Coastal Carolina University. "Continuing the quality of life enjoyed along the coast of South Carolina and continuing the growth of our economy will depend on maintaining the quality of our water resources, including the beaches and the rivers. These waters are used for drinking, recreating and commercial fishing."
Dan Hitchcock, coastal environmental quality specialist for the S.C. Sea Grant Extension Program, said more care should be given to everyday activities that affect the environment, "from how you maintain your garden to what you do at the beach and even where you wash your car." Oil spilled on the ground, fertilizers used in the garden or farm and sediment-laden runoff from construction, agriculture or forestry practices can all degrade bodies of water.
"All of us who live in South Carolina need to understand that our actions have an impact on water quality," said Jeff Pollack, coordinator of the North Inlet-Winyah Bay Coastal Training Program. "Efforts to educate the public on these issues are never ending, and a regional education approach is the way to go."