DHEC numbers show little change in Charleston Harbor water quality

By Valencia

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The question of pollution has lingered over the Charleston Harbor since Carnival Cruise Lines set sail in May 2009.

"Well, the first thing to remember about most cruise ships are, they're almost like floating cities," said Vijay Vulava, assistant professor of environmental geochemistry at College of Charleston. "They contain the average about 2 thousand people or so. So, in terms of impact they can have a pretty significant impact on the environment."

The Coastal Conservation League and Charleston neighborhood associations have voiced their concern about the environmental impact Carnival Cruises have on Charleston's harbor.

Officials with Carnival Cruise Lines say the company follows a laundry list of environmental initiatives in an effort to lower its ships impact on cities like Charleston.

Vulava says if Carnival practices what it preaches, there should be very little impact.

"The problem is, who's got those numbers? Who's done those analyses? Who's measured the pollutant levels?" Vulava said.

ABC News 4 gathered water quality data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

According to Vulava, the most important numbers to consider are the 5-day BOD streams and levels of acid. The lower the BOD number, the higher the level of oxygen available for ocean life.

In 2009, the Charleston Harbor tested at {<}2.0 BOD. {}Since then, the BOD level has not changed.

The acid levels, however, have changed slightly. In August 2009, the harbor tested at 7.39. In August of this year, the harbor tested at 7.54. While the levels have increased, Vulava says the numbers are within good environmental standard.

"If you have a big event in the Charleston downtown area, you would have a big influx of automobiles coming in. And, you could expect similar impact when people are loading and unloading from that cruise ship," said Vulava. "But, again, it's not something that happens everyday. So, in a way, I don't see that as a big impact."