Wastewater treatment on Edisto Island is primarily achieved through on-site wastewater treatment systems, also known as septic systems, or septic tanks. These septic systems require routine maintenance and repairs in order to function properly.  The Edisto Island Open Land Trust recognized that some of our island’s residents may not be able to afford the costs of routine maintenance. So we applied for funding from a new grant, the Healthy Harbors fund, through the Coastal Community Foundation and we were awarded funding this year. We are now seeking residents who could benefit from our new Septic Assistance Program.

The program offers opportunities for free septic system inspections and pump outs, as well as the possibility of a replacement system.  Residents who could use the help simply need to complete this online or printable form, and submit it to EIOLT. Please call the land trust office at 843-869-9004 if you have questions.

Why is this important?

The waterways on and around Edisto Island are affected by pollution from a variety of sources. There are currently 25 waterways in the area that are listed as impaired for one or more pollutants, including fecal coliform bacteria (11), enterococcus bacteria (4), turbidity (10), dissolved oxygen (1), ammonia (1), and copper (1).

The primary pollutant of concern across these sub-watersheds is bacteria (measured by the levels of enterococcus and fecal coliform), that can result from both natural (e.g. wildlife) and human-influenced (e.g., pets, septic systems) sources. High levels of bacteria in local waterways have resulted in the closure of shellfish beds, which is a major impediment to local traditions and way of life, as well as an economic hardship for some.

A properly maintained and properly functioning septic systems should not transmit bacteria to receiving water bodies. DHEC recommends inspecting septic systems every 2 years  Many of the septic systems on Edisto are aging, and may be located in areas where conditions aren’t optimal for infiltration or pollution reduction.

This program is the beginning of a larger project to help clean up our waterways.  For some residents, education will be needed to ensure proper septic management. For others, particularly those with financial limitations who are unable to secure County support for septic upgrades, alternative funding sources are necessary. Through this grant from the Coastal Community Foundation, EIOLT will be offering free inspections and pump outs to residents with septic systems in high-risk zones (areas with high bacteria levels, close to waterways, in areas that regularly flood, and in areas with poor soil drainage) which will help to reduce bacteria pollution reaching local waterways.

Fill out this form and we will be in contact with you!

With the national emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have found ourselves stuck at home more than we may like. You might be getting stir-crazy and looking for something to take your mind off the world at hand. Well, I have just the solution for you! Now is the perfect time to explore your backyard wilderness and find those easily accessible facets of nature that shine out from the corners. Our backyards, especially those in our rural and well-preserved Edisto, are brimming with nature. You only need to look to see them.

An easy place to start is with the plants growing about your lawn. Spring has sprung and wildflowers are cropping up everywhere. Tiny bursts of color flecked across the turf grass are easy to pick out. Clover, Oxalis, Toadflax, Bluet, Dwarf Dandelion, Vetch, and Dewberry are all common in lawns and weedy alcoves. While you’re combing through the grass for flowers, keep an eye open for pollinators. Our native bees and butterflies have begun to stir and they will be frequenting any flowers they can find nearby. Bumblebees, Carpenter Bees, and Honeybees are buzzing about and Cloudless Sulphurs, Red-banded Hairstreaks, and Juvenal’s Duskywings are fluttering around. As you gaze around into the whirling world of winged insects, stay apprised of any of our cold-blooded locals sure to be nearby. Lurking under and inside potted plants are Green Tree frogs, Southern Toads, and Green Anoles, happy cohabitators of human creation. The Anole patrols for insects by day and it is by night for our Tree Frogs and Toads.

Of course, no backyard nature outing is complete without taking note of our abundant and diverse birds. Bringing birds to your backyard is as easy as hanging up a bird feeder. A handful of millet and sunflower seeds scattered on a sidewalk or across a patio will accomplish the same goal and might bring in birds of a different feather, along with any neighborhood squirrels. Putting out a block of suet or a sprinkling of mealworms will attract ever more yard birds. A cup of grape jelly may net you an Oriole. Now is the perfect time to try your hand at birding. Birds are beginning to sing and build nests, making them easier than normal to see, hear, and attract with feeders. You can keep a list of all these birds to upload to the eBird app. Cornell University, who manages eBird, has tons of online resources for identifying and attracting birds.

If you encounter anything you can’t identify, break out any field guides you have or upload the photo to the iNaturalist app. Using iNaturalist is a great way to find a name for common species and to get answers for more difficult ones from expert naturalists. Observations submitted to eBird and iNaturalist can help biologists from around the country with their research. So what are you waiting for? Step outside and learn what you’ve been missing this whole time!

Article by: Tom Austin, Land Protection Specialist for EIOLT

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