The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for ammonia and biochemical oxygen demand for the Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway system near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, mandated a 60-percent reduction in point-source loading. For waters with a naturally low background dissolved-oxygen concentrations, South Carolina anti-degradation rules in the water-quality regulations allows a permitted discharger a reduction of dissolved oxygen of 0.1 milligrams per liter (mg/L). This is known as the "0.1 rule." Permitted dischargers within this region of the State operate under the "0.1 rule" and cannot cause a cumulative impact greater than 0.1 mg/L on dissolved-oxygen concentrations. For municipal water-reclamation facilities to serve the rapidly growing resort and retirement community near Myrtle Beach, a variable loading scheme was developed to allow dischargers to utilize increased assimilative capacity during higher streamflow conditions while still meeting the requirements of a recently established TMDL. As part of the TMDL development, an extensive real-time data-collection network was established in the lower Waccamaw and Pee Dee River watershed where continuous measurements of streamflow, water level, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and specific conductance are collected. In addition, the dynamic BRANCH/BLTM models were calibrated and validated to simulate the water quality and tidal dynamics of the system. The assimilative capacities for various streamflows were also analyzed. The variable-loading scheme established total loadings for three streamflow levels. Model simulations show the results from the additional loading to be less than a 0.1 mg/L reduction in dissolved oxygen. As part of the loading scheme, the real-time network was redesigned to monitor streamflow entering the study area and water-quality conditions in the location of dissolved-oxygen "sags." The study reveals how one group of permit holders used a variable-loading scheme to implement restrictive permit limits without experiencing prohibitive capital expenditures or initiating a lengthy appeals process.
Additional publication details
Living with a large reduction in permited loading by using a hydrograph-controlled release scheme