Proposal to rezone 945 acres on the Sampit River

Our comments on the Proposal to rezone 945 acres on the Sampit River to heavy industrial. Update: The county deferred the issue until next month.

Water is integral to all animal and plant life on earth. Clean water is a necessity. In our pursuit to maintain clean water, we monitor water quality within the greater Winyah Bay Watershed. We have a monitoring site on the Sampit River where it enters Winyah Bay and merges with the Waccamaw River. Growing populations, increasing urbanization, accelerating industrialization, and intensification of agriculture exert heavy pressure on our vast but limited water resources in our watershed. Additionally, rivers and tributaries play an important role in industrial and social development.

The quality of a river at any point is a combination of major influences including lithology of the basin, atmospheric inputs, climatic conditions, and anthropogenic inputs. Rivers play a major role in assimilation and transportation of municipal and industrial wastewater and agricultural runoff. Municipal and industrial wastewater constitute a constant polluting source while surface runoff is dependent on rainfall within the basin.

The effects of these discharges are seen in water quality monitoring data that has been collected for over 10 years in the watershed. We see seasonal changes in temperature and dissolved oxygen as well as increased turbidity, increase bacteria, increased nutrients, and reduced conductivity with stormwater inputs. Issues with stormwater runoff are the direct result of increased impervious cover due to development. Over the past 10 years, there have been few major issues at the Sampit River monitoring site. The parameters on site are typically within SCDHEC standards.

The input of waste into water bodies does not always impact negatively on aquatic environment because of the self-purification properties of the water bodies. However the untreated and partially treated wastewater from industrial sources may contain toxic compounds and water of a higher temperature. When untreated or partially treated discharges enter the surface water body, they either get dissolved, lie suspended in water or get deposited on the bed.

Our nation’s waterways do not have enough vegetation along stream banks and have too much nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria and mercury. Again, this is the result of increased impervious surfaces as development accelerates along our waterways. This is a national issue that we experience here in our own backyards. Half the world’s major rivers are being seriously polluted and/or depleted. About 40 percent of rivers and lakes in the U.S. surveyed by the EPA are too polluted for swimming or fishing.

Our rivers and streams serve as sources of drinking water, provide recreational opportunities, support fish and wildlife, and play a critical role in our economy and we do not want the Sampit to become another statistic. Maintaining healthy waters throughout our watershed should be a primary concern for our communities.

Picture: Georgetown County Planning Commission, July 20th