It would be a grand thing if the state health department reclassifies parts of Albergotti Creek and the Beaufort River to allow shellfish harvesting.
It would indicate that these waterways near Beaufort have gotten cleaner, while the norm in the fast-growing Beaufort County has been the opposite, as seen with the May River in southern Beaufort County.
A long process is required to get such a major reclassification. It has started, but the process is a long way from being finished. It would likely be 2015 before it takes place, if at all.
The state Department of Health of Environmental Control board -- and ultimately the state legislature -- must give approval. The decision should be based solely on the scientific data placed before them.
The data will come from extensive testing of the water quality. A testing station set up in the Beaufort River earlier this year is showing favorable results. A testing station is to be set up on Albergotti Creek in January.
The reason for the request for reclassification, and the positive early results, is simple. It is due to better, newer and wiser wastewaster disposal. Whether or not oystering for commercial purposes is restored to these waterways, the improved wastewater treatment is an important achievement for the community.
Water quality in these areas improved after the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority consolidated four military and municipal sewage treatment plants in the late 2000s. Functions at the plants serving the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Shell Point in the town of Port Royal, and Southside in the city of Beaufort were shifted to the utility's treatment plant on Castle Rock Road.
Now, that wastewater is being treated with higher standards and improved technology.
And the treated wastewater from these areas is now discharged into the Beaufort River in one place, near the J.E. McTeer Bridge, instead of three.
This is major progress.
It points to the importance of constantly improving wastewater treatment countywide. With so much of the developed land in low-lying Beaufort County directly impacting water quality, a top priority for all local and state governments, utilities and individuals must be proper operation and maintenance of septic systems and sewage treatment plants.
Where else in the county can wastewater treatment be upgraded to produce these promising results?