EPA Applauds SCDHEC, Farmers and Landowners for Improving Water Quality in the Enoree River Watershed

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ATLANTA -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commends the efforts of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), farmers, and landowners for improving water quality in the Enoree River watershed. Two out of six places in the river and its tributaries are now meeting the state’s bacteria water quality standard for the first time since the late ‘90s.

Upon project completion, SCDHEC tested the water quality of six testing stations on the Enoree River and its tributaries for the state’s 2014 CWA Water Quality Assessment. SCDHEC found that all stations show improvement for fecal coliform bacteria. Two of the testing stations now meet water quality standards and are classified as fully supporting (not impaired) for recreational uses. SCDHEC data also showed reductions in bacteria violations at four other stations in the Lower Enoree River watershed.

“EPA Applauds SCDHEC, farmers and landowners for improving water quality in the Enoree River watershed and providing additional recreational opportunities in the area,” said EPA Regional Water Division Director Jim Giattina. “EPA’s funding of this type of work helps us to accomplish our goal of making a visible difference in the health and the environment of communities in the southeast.”

Local partners began a project to restore the lower Enoree River in 2006. The project area includes portions of Laurens, Spartanburg, and Union counties and covers approximately 195,417 acres. EPA provided $255,953 in grant funds through a partnership with SCDHEC for this project. Many partners provided technical support and other in-kind services (worth $85,682), including Clemson University Extension (project management); U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS); the Spartanburg, Laurens and Union soil and water conservation districts; and the Spartanburg, Laurens and Union Cattlemen’s Associations. Landowners also contributed $104,939 in cash and in-kind services to install Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Project partners focused on recruiting livestock farmers to develop farm plans and implement BMPs to reduce fecal coliform bacteria loading from animal waste. In addition, nine failing septic systems were repaired.

Through local community organizations, including nonprofit organizations, churches, the Enoree River Educational Board and the Clemson University Cooperative Extension, shared information with homeowners about septic system maintenance needs and cost-share opportunities for septic system repairs. Extension agents also reviewed existing aerial photographs and maps of septic system pump-out occurrences, and worked with septic pumping contractors to identify possible failing septic systems and high-risk communities.

Fecal coliform bacteria have been used as an indicator of the possible presence of pathogens in surface waters and the risk of disease. Contact with contaminated water can lead to ear or skin infections, and inhaling contaminated water can cause respiratory diseases. The pathogens responsible for these diseases can be bacteria, viruses, protozoans, fungi, or parasites that live in the gastrointestinal tract and are shed in the feces of warm-blooded animals. More information on fecal bacteria: http://water.epa.gov/type/rsl/monitoring/vms511.cfm

States report that nonpoint source pollution (NPS) is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems in the United States. Unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, NPS pollution comes from many diffuse sources and is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters. Under Clean Water Act Section 319(h), EPA awards grants for implementation of state NPS pollution management programs. More information on NPS pollution: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/whatis.cfm

More information on the South Carolina’s Enoree River watershed project: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/success319/sc_enoree.cfm

Connect with EPA Region 4 on Facebook: www.facebook.com/eparegion4

And on Twitter: @USEPASoutheast

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