Center for Environmental NanoScience and Risk (CENR) and department of environmental health sciences (ENHS) assistant professor, Dr. Mohammed Baalousha, and ENHS chair and professor, Dr. Geoff Scott (Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina), have been awarded $24,999 from the SC Sea Grant Consortium (Consortium) to evaluate nonpoint source (i.e., pollution from diffuse sources such as stormwater) contaminant concentration in stormwater systems in South Carolina. “Stormwater ponds act as a transition point for contaminants, such as metals, nutrients, microbial pollution, between the urban environment and rivers and estuaries,” explains Dr. Baalousha. “The occurrence of these contaminants in stormwater ponds is well documented in previous research; however, there is a lack of knowledge regarding how they impact the environment.”
Similar projects in other states, such as California, have discovered even higher levels of certain pollutants and contaminants in stormwater ponds than in waste water treatment plants. These contaminants are then taken up by aquatic organisms, such as oysters and shellfish, thereby entering the human food chain.
Six other mini-grants have been awarded to fund parallel projects throughout South Carolina. These projects, known as chapters, will collectively produce a more holistic body of information from which the investigators can advise the Consortium on knowledge gaps and research priorities.
Drs. Baalousha and Scott believe that partnerships will result from this project, administered through CENR, once they have compiled and disseminated the initial report. At that time, they will look for opportunities to partner with interested parties, including residential developers, county zoning officials and golf course operators.
“Dr. Scott has an extensive track record for developing partnerships in SC, and we will use this experience in developing new partnerships for this project as well,” Dr. Baalousha says. “Further, our research findings will focus on informing the public on nonpoint source contaminant risks in urban runoff and stormwater ponds.”
By collaborating with the Consortium, they will be able to access an extensive network of environmental managers for stormwater pond management. For example, through the existing extension programs the researchers will host a workshop for state and federal agencies as well as academic institutions and non-profit organizations within SC and the southeast. During this workshop, Drs. Baalousha and Scott will present the findings from their assessment and seek feedback.
This process ensures not only heightened discussion and understanding of this issue, but it will also provide a mechanism and venue for follow-up discussions with interested groups, such as golf course and residential developers. By working with the Consortium to connect with appropriate developers and property owner associations that work to develop more sustainable approaches in pond management, the team aims to inform these groups about nonpoint source contaminant risks and management approaches.