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While a recently hired consultant prepares a May River clean-up strategy, the town of Bluffton plans to supplement the plan with projects that range from a social marketing campaign to an overhaul of its building code.
The aim is to reduce fecal coliform levels in the May River, parts of which have been closed to oyster harvesting since August.
The town has about $1 million in federal grants and matching money for the projects. Some of that money has paid for pet-waste containers and a rain barrel and rain garden project.
Ahead are bigger projects, such as hiring a firm to create an environmental-sustainability awareness campaign.
At the quarterly meeting of the May River Waterbody Management Plan Implementation Committee on Wednesday, the town's Growth Management department announced contract negotiations are under way with a company that would create that campaign.
The company, which was not named, would explain to the public how daily activities affect water quality, especially among pet owners, horse owners and residents who use septic systems.
The town also seeks a company to repair, replace and clean septic systems in old town and the greater Bluffton area. Town staff will survey homes to identify tanks that need to be pumped or fixed, environmental project technician Sam Connor said.
The town is negotiating with a landowner near the intersection of Rose Dhu and Stoney Creeks -- one of the areas closed to shellfishing -- to dig a lagoon on private property.
The retention pond would catch and treat runoff before it gets to the river and should capture about 20 percent of the drainage in that area, according to John Carmack of Bluffton's Office of Planning and Environmental Sustainability.
The most important part of the town's multi-pronged plan is taking advantage of the economic downturn to overhaul building codes, assistant town manager Marc Orlando said.
Studies have shown rapid development in Bluffton is largely responsible for water pollution -- a fact resident Laura Floyd urged committee and committee members not to forget during Wednesday's meeting.
Orlando said the code overhaul, which emphasizes watershed protection, streamlines and improves land use and zoning. A draft is due Dec. 31, and town council and the public will review the code early next year.
Implementation Committee Chairman Wes Jones said he is excited about the town's projects, especially the MacTec Engineering and Consulting Inc.'s forthcoming May River Action Plan.
"It's taken a while but I think we're making significant progress," he said.