Author Archives: VMV

Do we need to extend I-526?

Guest blog by Scott Rosenbrook and Jake Wilkerson

Charleston County proposes building an I-526 extension through Johns Island. traffic choke pointsThere have been considerable outcry from the residents of Johns Island, about the destruction which will be caused with it’s development, such as damage to local wildlife, wetlands which help absorbs pollutants in the water and acts as a nursery for much of the regions aquatic wildlife, local agriculture including forests and farming would also be damaged be the construction and subsequent increase in travelers. Other problems for the area would be increased air, noise, and light pollution from the cars driving through and the large amounts of lighting for night use, also the massive projected cost $420 million that is expected to as much as double due to raises construction price. Cheaper alternative plans include developing existing roads running parallel to each other to spread out traffic, this idea being projected at less than half that of the extension.

Where have all the honeybees gone?

Guest Blog by Liz Kline and Ross Holland

Since 2005 Bee Keepers around the United States have noticed a significant decline in their honey bee hive colony population. It’s a development that has raised great concerns because bees pollinate an estimated 1/3 of the crops that are our source of food. An estimated 40-60 percent of honey bees and hives in the United States died or were severely weakened in 2005, and a majority of the decline is occurring in California. In 2005 California lost 50 percent of their honey bees leading to spotty pollination for fruits, nuts, and other agricultural goods. This phenomenon has caused over $150 million in losses for U.S. beekeepers. Little is actually known about the reasons for the drop in adult honey bees, but there are many theories for the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder including the varroa mite (a parasite that attaches to the back of the bee), an insecticide called imidacloprid, high fructose corn syrup, and wireless cellphone waves. This dramatic decline may have huge affects on the world with 1/3 of the human diet being derived from insect-pollinated plants, and 80 percent of all insect pollination being accomplished by honey bees. Certain steps we can take to slow down or reverse this disorder is to plant plants for your gardens that flower at various times, plant native species, reduce or eliminate pesticides by using green alternatives, and the more drastic approach; find and breed honey bees resistant to disease.

Tsunami threat to Eastern US?

Guest blog by Madeline Bryant and Erin Knox

La Palma is the fifth largest island off of the Canary Island Chain located of the Northwest Coast of Africa.  La Palma  is a volcanic ocean island with an inactive shield volcano that stands seven kilometers high on its north end. In the southern part of the Island lies the active volcano- Cumbre Vieja. The Cumbre Vieja is a rift volcano that lies in a rift zone atop a cluster of volcanic vents. Cumbre Vieja is situated above deep dykes that reveal themselves in the topography as rifts, these dykes lie in a three pointed star shape along fissure zones. The rift along the lateral side of the volcano make its western flank unstable. The volcano is currently active- any major activity creates a threat for many volcanic hazards to those who inhabit the island and those around it. The weakness in the rift formation on its western side and the 15-20° slope makes it unstable in the event of an eruption and a landslide is highly probable. The potential landslide would plummet into the ocean creating a massive ‘mega-tsunami’ wave that could reach the east coast of North America in six hours. The wave is predicted to subside from its initial 600m height into multiple waves of thirty to sixty meters high and inundate the US East coast 16 mi inland.

Coal plants are a step in the wrong direction?

Guest Blog by Luke Wilson, Jasmine Woods, and Jaqueline Stogner

The recent drought and influx of people in SC has caused the state-owned utility company, Santee Cooper, to propose the construction of two 660-megawatt coal-fired power plants in Florence County in order to keep up with SC’s growing electricity demand. Coal burning plants emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and contributor to global warming, nitrogen oxide, a component in smog, sulfur dioxides, a contributor to acid rain, and mercury, a highly toxic metal when converted to methyl mercury. These proposed plants would annually produce over 8 million tons of CO2 and discharge 300 pounds of mercury into the Great Pee Dee River as a byproduct of burning coal. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has already issued a high mercury level advisory for the consumption of many fatty fish caught in the Great Pee Dee, and adding another coal plant would only exacerbate the problem.

What’s living in your water? (Not much!)

Guest blog by Brian Smart and Katharine Callaway

The 330,000 plus residents of Charleston County use approximately 114 million gallons of water per day (Mgal/d) only about 12 percent of which is from ground water sources. The other 101 million gallons come from surface water sources, mainly the Edisto River and Bushy Park Reservoir. This raw water is subject to runoff from rainwater, agriculture, industry and air pollution, which deposit chemicals, bacteria and organic contaminants in the streams and rivers feeding the lakes and reservoirs. Intensive treatment is necessary before the surface water is suitable for human consumption. The water treatment plant in Hanahan has the responsibility of making our water safe to use. After being screened to remove large objects such as tree branches, dead animals and garbage, a combination of chlorine and ammonia is added to the water to kill bacteria and viruses, and lime is added to adjust the pH levels. Next, aluminum sulfate is mixed into the water, acting as a coagulating element to bond with the previously added chemicals, now dead bacteria, viruses and other microscopic material and cause them to drop out of the water stream as sediments. These sediments are disposed of by spraying them on a forested area near the water treatment facility. Finally, the water is passed though a series of fine mineral filters and then treated with more chlorine, ammonia and lime, as well as fluoride to keep your teeth healthy and orthophosphate to prevent heavy metals from leaching out of your plumbing. If anything can live through this process, it must be a very tough organism indeed.