Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Waste Management in South Carolina

In South Carolina, expected population increases will require the development and implementation of cost-effective methods to treat waste and reduce odor, plant nutrients, and pathogens. Waste is handled in three common methods: recycling, recovery, and disposal. With land prices at a premium and the amount of waste increasing, landfilling is becoming expensive and a less attractive option. Waste management not only includes the handling, composting, and disposing of municipal solid wastes, but also land application of animal wastes, facultative aerobic and anaerobic lagoons. To fully understand the causes of watershed impairment, it is vital to incorporate all possible factors including natural, animal, and human causes.

If not managed properly, animal wastes from hog, beef, dairy, and poultry operations can affect human health and water quality. Bacteria in animal wastes can contaminate forest.gifdrinking water and may cause potentially serious illnesses. High levels of nitrates, a form of nitrogen that develops naturally in animal wastes, in drinking water may harm unborn or young infants and young livestock. Nutrients from animal wastes that enter streams may lower oxygen levels and kill fish and other wildlife. Preventing animal access to streams and lakes and providing watering stations away from natural water sources will lessen the impact on water quality. Practices such as the treatment of poultry and swine wastes with vermiculture, land application of animal wastes, liquid-solid separation of dairy manure, gravity settling of dairy manure, earth shaping, filter strips, and screw press separators for treating swine manure are being tested and improved to reduce the impact of animal wastes on South Carolina's water quality.

Sediments, nutrients, and pesticides are introduced to surface and ground water through agricultural practices and weathering. Through run-off, leaching, or airborne volatilization or drift, these components can lead to environmental burdens. Nutrients and pesticides become pollutants when they are used in excess of plant needs. Monitoring studies have shown levels of pesticides in surface and ground water that exceed recommended health standards, as well as nutrient levels on the rise in various aquifers. Conservation practices on agricultural land (buffer strips, filter strips, constructed wetlands & terraces, and vegetated riparian zones) can reduce sediment and pollutants considerably. By incorporating conservation practices and improving fertilization methods, sediments and their associated pollutants can be removed by deposition, filtration, infiltration, decomposition, sorption, and volatilization. More than half of the watersheds within South Carolina are impaired with fecal coliform problems. More than any other contaminant, fecal coliform impairment affects human use of our water bodies.

Sludges and other non-decomposing end products are typically disposed of in landfills. However, sewage sludge and many industrial sludges contain nitrogen and other plant nutrients which under the right conditions and methods may be applied to crops, lawns or gardens.

Minimizing our waste stream relieves the pressure on surface and ground water, as well as our landfills. Recycling can be incorporated into your home and workplace to reduce the amount of waste produced. There are numerous methods of recycling animal waste. To protect the quality of our ground water and our rivers and streams, proper disposal of human, livestock, industrial, and agriculture waste is essential.

Conditions in Your Watershed

Information concerning the relative health or impairment of State waters is available through the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) and through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This information is periodically updated to reflect changes in the watershed that result in changes in the water body condition.

Resources and Programs

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service Research and Education Centers offer a number of programs that help farmers, homeowners, and the "green" industry with waste management.

Extension Outreach

The Certified Animal Manure Managers Program provides information concerning animal manure production, storage, and proper application and utilization to Confined Animal Feeding Operations. A water quality chapter focusing on animal confinement facilities is included in the handbook. Upon completion of the course and an examination, farmers and growers are Certified Animal Manure Managers with the reference material, tools, and records to help them manage animal manures correctly.

The Agricultural Services Laboratory offers nutrient analysis of forages and feedstuffs, nutrient analysis of soils, irrigation water testing, manure nutrient analysis, weed and pest identification and a number of other services. The information provided by this laboratory is critical to the proper management of nutrients and pesticides in agricultural, commercial and residential systems.

The Clemson Farm-A-Syst program provides materials to help farmers and growers assess their present environmental impact and risk levels, and provides information farm.gifabout best management practices (BMPs) to help lower these impacts and risk levels. Likewise, the Home-A-Syst program provides materials to help homeowners assess their impacts and risk levels, and provides BMPs to lower these impacts and risk levels.

The Clemson Bulletin Room maintains Clemson University Water Quality Publications, which provides a variety of water quality and waste management publications written specifically for South Carolina's environment and climate.

The Clemson Extension Water Quality Website offers a brief view of various Extension water resource programs and volunteer opportunities in South Carolina.

Scientific Research

Animal waste management extension and applied research activities in South Carolina are organized under the direction of an initiative team composed of extension faculty and agents from the following disciplines: Agricultural Engineering, Animal Science, Soil Science, and Stream Ecology. For further information, please visit the websites below:

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in waste management are available within several departments at Clemson University. Graduate and undergraduate programs in key departments include:


Kang S. Lu and Jeffery S. Allen. Animal Agriculture & Watershed Impairment in South Carolina-A Gis-Based Spatial Assessment. South Carolina Water Resources Center, Strom Thurmond Institute of Government & Public Affairs, Clemson University. May 2002.

Franklin, Ralph. Land Application of Wastes.

USDA-NRCS. Water Quality and Agriculture-Status, Conditions, and Trends. Working Paper #16. July 1997.

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