Battery Creek reopens to shellfish harvesting

By Tony Kukulich

Shellfish beds in Beaufort County that were closed to harvesting due to a 500,000-gallon sewage spill in Battery Creek last month were reopened at sunrise, Monday, Feb. 21.

“After a 21-day closure that took effect when a sewer line breach occurred in the area, shellfish harvesting beds in all open areas of Battery Creek and portions of the Broad River from the Broad River Bridge south to Archers Creek and east to Malecon Drive on Parris Island are once again suitable for shellfish harvesting,” said Mike Pearson, manager of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Shellfish Sanitation Section.

The Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority (BJWSA) reported significant wastewater overflow into a ditch that drained into Battery Creek on Jan. 31. According to the agency, a customer complained about a strong odor of sewage, leading to the discovery of a split in a 16-inch pipe crossing under the ditch.

“We determined that due to the location of the pipeline a few feet in front of an outfall of a 54-inch storm drainpipe, that storm water washed away the soil covering the ductile iron main, thus exposing the pipeline to salt water during high tides,” BJWSA Director of Public Affairs Pamela Flasch said in a Feb. 18 press release. “Exposure to the harsh environment accelerated corrosion to the outside of the pipe, which led to the premature failure.”

Flasch said the odor was first detected Jan. 28, but not reported until three days later. Within hours of the report, the spill was stopped and DHEC was notified of the situation. Repair work commenced immediately, and nearly 60 feet of pipeline were eventually replaced in the effort.

DHEC issued an immediate 21-day closure of the impacted shellfish beds and signs were posted warning the public of the health hazard. BJWSA was directed to remove those signs on Feb. 4 after four days of testing confirmed that water conditions returned to acceptable levels. Despite the improvements to water conditions, the shellfish beds remained closed for the full 21 days.

“While we recognize not all incidents are preventable, we are committed to be proactive in our processes, operations and maintenance to avoid future wastewater overflows,” Flasch said. “BJWSA’s Asset Management Program allows us to identify our highest priority needs for replacement and rehabilitation of our infrastructure. Our newly-created Preventive Maintenance Department focuses solely on proactive maintenance needs in our system.”

BJWSA asks that anyone who sees or suspects a spill from the sewer collection system contact the agency at 843-987-9200.

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He and his wife enjoy exploring their new home state. He can also frequently be found playing bass guitar with a couple of local bands. He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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