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Sustainability Stories: November 2022


ER-Charleston & Point Source Pollution

Tuesday, November 15, 2022  by qrelihan

    On August 18, 2022, MER was hired by the owner of Rio Chico a Mexican restaurant in Charleston County SC.  MER was brought in by Rio Chico after a broken kitchen line caused a mixture of grease and cooking oil to end up in a nearby pond.  This broken kitchen line was made worse by recent storms that led to excess water in storm drains.  As you can imagine between the broken kitchen line and excess water in storm drains it created the perfect storm for grease to end up in a nearby pond. 

    In this instance, the grease that ended up in the nearby pond is the perfect example of point source pollution.  This is because there was a traceable trail of grease in the parking lot of Rio Chico that connected it to the storm drains that emptied out into the nearby pond (WCSC News, Zuhowski 2022).  The state department of health and environmental control served Rio Chico a notice of violation (NOV) to inform the restaurant that they had 7 days to remove the grease from the pond and if they did not comply, then they would receive a summons.  Therefore, Rio Chico needed an environmental response and remediation crew that could get the job done in 7 days or less so that they could avoid receiving a summons (WCSC News, Zuhowski 2022).

    Rio Chico chose to hire MER for the job and trusted that they would get the grease removed correctly and quickly.  MER not only met their standards, but they exceeded them by providing the necessary labor and equipment that was needed to complete the job.  MER was able to finish the job within the 7-day time frame that the state gave Rio Chico, so no summons was served.  MER’s crew also worked with the Carolina Wildlife Rehab Center by alerting them whenever they came across oil covered or injured wildlife. 

    The crew that was tasked with cleaning the pond, included Supervisor John Todd, Kenneth "Blaise" Murray as the Operator, Germaine Grant & Benjamin Goss as the Technicians on the scene (pictured left to right in image below). To remove grease and cooking oil from the pond, the crew had to vacuum out and line jet the 3 storm water drains that lead to the pond.  Due to vegetation growing around the pond some of the areas where the cooking oil and grease had ended up were difficult to reach and required crews to use a john boat.  Although the goal was to remove the grease from the pond quickly so that Rio Chico would not receive a summons from the state, the prompt removal of the grease and cooking oil is important for the health of surrounding flora & fauna as well.

    The environmental impact of a release of cooking oil into a pond can be grave for the wildlife if not responded to quickly.  For instance, the Carolina Wildlife Rehab Center reported that even with MER’s quick response the pond still suffered a significant loss of wildlife.  This is because even a small amount of oil will spread quickly in a body of water and the most urgent of responses will still result in wildlife loss. By working in conjunction with the Carolina Wildlife Rehab Center, MER was able to draw attention to injured wildlife faster than the center would have been able to on their own.  Even though there was wildlife loss, the quick response and high quality of work performed by MER’s response crew kept that loss to a minimum. 

    The city of Charleston reports that incidents like the one with Rio Chico happens about 10-12 times a year, and most of the time the culprit cannot be pinpointed which can delay the clean-up process (WCSC News, Zuhowski 2022).  When cooking oil, grease or other pollutants enter a body of water as a non-point source pollution then the clean up process may be delayed or take longer as there is no one who can be held responsible for said clean up.  Since it was clear that the grease was coming from the broken kitchen line at Rio Chico, the environmental impact on the retention pond was far less than it would be if it was non-point source pollution.  This is because quick action was taken by the state, Rio Chico and MER’s crew to address and clean up the release of cooking oil.

  

   MER Response Crew                         Retention Pond Pollution                         John Boat

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