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Possible 'fecal' bacteria being monitored in Shem Creek

WCIV

Concerns over possible fecal indicator bacteria in Shem Creek have water quality advocates paying close attention. As more people spend time in this popular waterway during the summer, the need to keep an eye on its cleanliness becomes more important.

"We got all the gear in the trunk here. And we're gonna load it onto the boat in just a minute," explained Andrew Wunderley.

At Charleston City Marina, a weekly excursion for Wunderley begins from the parking lot to the boardwalk. And eventually a boat slip.

Guided by a Garmin, he and his colleague Lane Kennedy are on a mission as they patrol about 10 nautical square miles.

"We're sampling for the fecal indicator enterococcus," Wunderley said.

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It’s an unpleasant topic to tackle for scenic views of Charleston Harbor. But as director of the non-profit group Charleston Waterkeeper, Wunderley is paying attention to one of the crown jewels of local waterways.

"Shem Creek is all suburban and urban development. The more developed the watershed is the more likely you are to find poor water quality," Wunderley said.

And that's what Charleston Waterkeeper's studies discovered recently. Wunderley says mother nature is partly to blame.

"Polluted flood water, polluted rain water that washes over the ground during a rain storm picks up anything and everything that's on the ground," Wunderley said.

Lane Kennedy is a field investigator for Charleston Waterkeeper. She takes water samples and carefully documents where they come from.

"A lot of it looks very clean. But we have an indicator that'll show us in the lab how much bacteria is in it," Kennedy said.

In other words, don't be fooled by what you see in the jar.

"Clarity is not always associated with cleanliness," Wunderley admits.

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Mount Pleasant town leaders have committed to improving water quality in Shem Creek. Until their plans are finalized, advocates like Andrew and Lane will continue their efforts.

"I mean this is it, man. this is what makes Shem Creek great," Wunderley said.

Those water samples were taken to College of Charleston for analyzing. The results were studied to find out more about the problem, and possibly where its coming from. VIEW UPDATED WATER QUALITY REPORT

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