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Environment: Water quality plan up for public review

The draft of an updated plan for the assessment and improvement of regional water quality is complete and ready for public review.

The draft and the old version of the plan are available online and changes will be presented at a public input meeting next week in Georgetown.

Among revisions are the addition of a chapter that takes an inventory of water quality resources and a new attention to the importance of public education and involvement in water quality issues.

“It emphasizes areas where the general public ought to be aware of certain water quality issues and how they can make a difference,” said Daniel Newquist, Section 208 coordinator for Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments. The agency manages the plan for Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties.

Section 208 is part of the federal Clean Water Act and the local plan was last revised in 1998. The update ensures it addresses current and future needs and water quality issues, according to Newquist.

Grants that paid for part of the update required a focus on green infrastructure and energy efficiency, particularly for stormwater runoff and wastewater treatment.

Additionally, Newquist and individuals who made up four subcommittees added a “full, comprehensive chapter on nonpoint source pollution,” which includes stormwater runoff and other pollution that comes from multiple sources.

“The previous plan only mentioned it in general,” Newquist said. “This new chapter kind of surveys all the known nonpoint source pollution affecting water quality in our region.”

A chapter on the economic importance of water quality, another addition, includes an overall evaluation and analysis.

“That was a particularly interesting chapter to write, because we do focus on green infrastructure strategies and weighing the costs and benefits,” Newquist said.

The draft also includes an inventory of water quality monitoring resources. The 1998 version highlights resources managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The proposed update adds monitoring conducted by the state Department of Health and Environmental Services, the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, Coastal Carolina University and the North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

“We definitely feel that water quality monitoring plays an important part in overall management, so we emphasized that in our goals,” Newquist said.

The public meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Waccamaw Regional office in Georgetown. To see the plan, click here.

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