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The Waccamaw Watershed Academy

In 2004, Coastal Carolina University established the Waccamaw Watershed Academy (WWA) under the aegis of the Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies (BCCMWS) to meet local needs for expertise in the areas of watershed and wetland science and management. The mission of the academy is to deliver educational, research, and public outreach services to the university and the local region. The latter encompasses the Waccamaw River which lies in Horry and Georgetown counties in South Carolina and Brunswick and Columbus counties in North Carolina.

The research arm of the academy addresses local needs for regulatory-level technical study of environmental problems. Projects already conducted by the WWA have had a direct positive impact on the economic welfare of our region. This has included determination of sources and levels of contaminant bacteria in the surf zone of the Grand Strand and the Waccamaw River, evaluation of off-shore discharge pipes for dispersion of stormwater runoff, and development of aquifer storage and recovery technology for extending local drinking water resources. These projects have involved undergraduate students who have used their research experiences to gain entry into graduate schools and environmental chemistry lab jobs.

This research work is done within a state-certified Environmental Quality Laboratory (EQL) staffed by a Laboratory Director and a Research Technician. No other comprehensive regulatory-level lab is located within Horry and Georgetown counties, so the EQL represents a unique resource to the region. The EQL currently occupies a 3025 sqare foot facility used for student and faculty research and instruction.

Faculty associated with the WWA are currently engaged in research that seeks to understand the sources, transport pathways, and biological impacts of pollutants in the Waccamaw Watershed, including mercury, pathogenic bacteria, oxygen-demanding substances and nutrients. The major transport pathways are non-point source in nature, including stormwater runoff and atmospheric dispersal via winds. These research efforts have as their ultimate goal, development of best management techniques for land conservation. These techniques range from the site scale to the regional scale, with the latter being addressed through consensus-driven planning efforts. Site scale activities include application of technologies for minimizing pollution production and for removing pollutants.