Healthy Eyes Are in Focus at the Eye Center of Charleston

Protect Your Eyes with Help from an Ophthalmologist in Isle of Palms, SC

If there's one thing that most people can agree on, it's that our human senses are extraordinary. They help us interact with the environment around us every day of our lives. Our brain processes signals from various neurons associated with our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch to provide us with a meaningful perception of the world. The truth is, though, that we tend to take our senses for granted unless we experience a malfunction in any of them.

Humans have five senses and the same number of organs to complement those senses: a tongue to taste, a nose to smell, two ears to hear, skin for the sensation of touch, and eyes for sight. Of those senses and organs, our eyes are often considered the most essential, as they enable us to perceive up to 80% of all the impressions we encounter daily.

If other senses like taste or smell stop functioning, our eyes protect us from potential dangers. But they also help provide us with distinctly human memories. Think of all the picture-worthy moments that you have experienced over your lifetime. From seeing your baby smile or walk toward you for the first time to enjoying a memorable movie, it's safe to say that our eyes play an incredibly important role in our daily lives.

It makes sense, then, that we would want to protect our eyes and have them checked regularly to make sure they're healthy and functioning as they should. According to data by Ipsos, however, only 39% of Americans have been to an eye doctor's office in the last year. Fortunately, if you live in the Lowcountry, finding an eye doctor in Isle of Palms, SC, is easier and more convenient than ever when you visit the professionals at Eye Center of Charleston.

Service Areas

 Eye Surgeon Isle Of Palms, SC

The Eye Center of Charleston Difference

Unlike some eye doctor offices in South Carolina, our team uses the most advanced technology paired with our esteemed clinical and surgical skills to precisely diagnose and treat a wide variety of eye conditions and diseases. We focus on a number of vision conditions, medical conditions, and physician services, including but not limited to:

  • Cataracts
  • Presbyopia
  • Nearsightedness
  • Farsightedness
  • Astigmatism
  • Styes
  • Diabetic Eye Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Excisional Biopsies
  • Dry Eye Syndrome
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Flashes & Floaters

It all starts with an introductory appointment with one of our experienced eye doctors, who will take as much time as needed to get to know you, learn more about your needs, and better understand the symptoms you're experiencing. Once we know the extent of your eye care needs, our doctors will provide you with an effective, efficient diagnosis and plan of action to remediate any issues you're facing.

From nuanced eye surgeries to standard eye exams, we've got you covered. In fact, we offer the latest technology in Varilux Progressives, Transitions, Crizal Anti-Reflective Lenses, Prescription Polarized Sunglasses, and Thin Lightweight Lenses. With a wide selection of frames and sunglasses, you're sure to find the glasses you need in a style you love.

 Eye Doctor Isle Of Palms, SC

What is an Ophthalmologist in Isle of Palms, SC?

When people think about eye doctors, they often think about professionals who conduct eye exams and prescribe contacts. They don't realize that an ophthalmologist is different than other professionals, like optometrists. So, what is an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a vision health professional who plays a specific role in the field of eye care. Along with optometrists and opticians, they are part of a comprehensive eye care team. However, some patients may need clarification on the similar-sounding names of these three types of eye care providers. Each one has unique skills and training for the tasks they perform. You should understand these differences so you can choose the best professional to address your vision needs.

What are the Differences Between Ophthalmologists and Other Eye Care Specialists?

Opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists each have a separate role in the field of eye care.

 Eye Treatment Isle Of Palms, SC

Optometrists

These professionals conduct eye exams, vision tests, and can prescribe corrective lenses that help address and solve eye conditions.

 Eye Surgeon Isle Of Palms, SC

Opticians

Opticians are often labeled "eye doctors," but they focus mostly on filling prescriptions for contact lenses, glasses, and sunglasses. They're also experts at repairing glasses and adjusting frames as needed.

Ophthalmologist Isle Of Palms, SC

Ophthalmologists

These medical doctors treat and diagnose certain eye diseases. However, it's not uncommon for ophthalmologists to provide vision services similar to those of optometrists.

At Eye Center of Charleston, we offer patients all three eye care specialists to provide the most well-rounded, effective eye care services in Charleston and beyond.

Are Optometrists and Ophthalmologists Basically the Same?

While optometrists have a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree and can provide primary vision health care, ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have received approximately three times the education and training.

They can perform all the same services as an optometrist but can also provide treatment, including performing surgeries such as cataract removal, vision correction, and eyelid lifting. Optometrists may detect signs of eye diseases during routine eye exams but are unable to treat them, so they often refer patients to ophthalmologists at The Eye Center of Charleston.

Surgical Specialties at The Eye Center of Charleston

While we serve many different types of patients with a wide variety of needs, many clients visit our eye surgeon in Isle of Palms, SC, for very specific procedures. Keep reading below to learn more about those surgeries and the conditions that necessitate an eye doctor's intervention.

While we serve many different types of patients with a wide variety of needs, many clients visit our eye surgeon in Isle of Palms, SC, for very specific procedures. Keep reading below to learn more about those surgeries and the conditions that necessitate an eye doctor's intervention.

In a young and healthy eye, light passes smoothly through clear ocular structures and is then focused on the retina, the light-sensitive lining inside the eye. The lens, which is a slightly flattened marble-shaped structure, helps to focus the eye. If the lens becomes cloudy, yellow, or limits the amount of light that travels through it, it is known as a cataract. Cataracts can occur at any stage of life, from birth to old age.

Some of the most common symptoms of cataracts include the following:

  • Blurry or Dim Vision
  • Lights Are Too Bright
  • Lights Give Off Halo Effect
  • Faded Colors
  • Vision at Night is Poor
  • Vision Distortion

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can cause damage to the optic nerve due to high pressure in the eye, leading to possible vision loss. Therefore, the primary focus of treatment is to control eye pressure. Early intervention is crucial in preventing severe vision loss. While most patients can avoid severe vision loss with the use of topical eye drops, some require additional treatment.

It should be noted that some patients prefer to have less dependence on eye drops. Along with medical treatment, several safe and effective procedures are available, including laser trabeculoplasty and minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. To learn more about these treatment options, talk to your eye doctor at The Eye Center of Charleston.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for sending visual information from your eye to your brain and is essential for good vision. While high pressure in your eye is often associated with optic nerve damage, glaucoma can occur even with normal eye pressure.

Although glaucoma can happen at any age, it is more prevalent in older adults and is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. Unfortunately, many forms of glaucoma produce no warning signs. The effect of the condition is so gradual that you may not notice a change in vision until the later stages of the disease.

That's why it's essential to have regular eye exams that include measuring your eye pressure. Early recognition of glaucoma is a very important part of that process because it can help slow down or prevent vision loss. If you have glaucoma, you will need to undergo treatment or monitoring for the rest of your life.

Some of the most common symptoms of glaucoma include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Eye Pressure & Pain
  • Low, Blurred, or Narrow Vision
  • Bloodshot Eyes
  • Nausea
  • Seeing Rainbow-Colored Haloes Around Light Sources

A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth that appears on the surface of the eye, causing blurry vision. It usually occurs in individuals who have a long history of exposure to sunlight or UV light. Should you need pterygium surgery at The Eye Center of Charleston, you can rest easy knowing that your eye doctor in Isle of Palms, SC, will be highly trained and experienced in the surgical treatment of pterygia.

Also called surfer's eye, a pterygium is an overgrowth of the conjunctiva, which is a thin and clear membrane on the surface of the eye. It can appear as a fleshy growth and is usually found growing from the inner corner of the eye, close to the nose. However, it can also appear on the outer corner or on both sides of the eye. The condition is not cancerous and does not spread to any other part of the face or body. It can cause redness and irritation in the affected area.

If left untreated, a pterygium can grow across the cornea, which is the transparent 'window' that covers the pupil and iris, further impacting vision. In such cases, surgical treatment may be necessary. However, it's important to note that pterygia may grow back even after successful surgery.

Some symptoms of a pterygium include the following:

  • Itching & Burning
  • Inflammation & Bloodshot Eyes
  • Minor Eye Pain
  • Issues with Blocked Vision

How Diabetes Can Affect Your Eyes

If you have diabetes, you may be wondering if the disease can affect your eyes and whether or not an ophthalmologist in Isle of Palms, SC can help. To provide the best answer, it's important that you understand how diabetes can affect your eyesight.

Diabetes is a condition in which your body fails to properly convert food into energy. This is because your body either cannot produce or does not respond to insulin, which is a hormone responsible for transporting glucose (blood sugar) to the cells in your body. When there is an excess of glucose in the bloodstream, it can cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves throughout your body, including the eyes.

Understanding Diabetic Eye Disease

When we refer to diabetic eye disease, we're talking about a group of eye conditions that stem from diabetes. Those conditions include the following:

3 Easy Ways to Protect Your Eyes Everyday

Eye problems can be easily prevented if you adopt some easy-to-follow habits for eye care in your daily routine. Even though these habits are practical and easy to accomplish, many people brush them off - until they have serious eye problems. To maintain good eye health and sharp vision, try incorporating these eye care techniques into your daily routine.

Eye Center of Charleston Pro Tip

Swing by one of our eye clinics to see our selection of fashionable and chic sunglasses. Our licensed opticians keep a number of popular sunglass options available at all times, like Costa, Kate Spade, and Juicy Couture. Protect your eyes and look great at the same time!

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Use Protection from the Sun

It's important to be mindful of the potential risks associated with exposure to sunlight and UV rays. These hazards include an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, as well as the possibility of cornea sunburn or photokeratitis. To protect your eyes, try wearing sunglasses that have UV protection. If you don't like wearing sunglasses, you can opt for UV-protected eyeglasses or contact lenses instead. You can also try wearing caps, visors, and hats for added protection.

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Try Not to Rub Your Eyes

One of life's little pleasures is rubbing your eyes when you're tired or have had a long day. It may feel good, but we don't recommend doing it. Reason being, your hands come into contact with a great deal of dirt, dust, and bacteria on a daily basis.

Every time you touch or rub your eyes, these harmful particles can be easily transferred to them. If you avoid touching your eyes with your hands, you can better prevent infections and irritations.

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Try the 20-20-20 Rule of Thumb

To keep your eyes in the best shape possible, consider adopting this handy rule. It states that:

  • Look away from your computer screen or TV every 20 minutes and fixate your gaze on something that is 20 feet away.
  • Blink your eyes 20 times in succession. This helps prevent dry eyes.
  • Get up out of your seat or away from your desk every 20 minutes. Then, take 20 steps. Doing so helps you vision and also helps promote healthy blood circulation and posture.

See a Brighter Future with Help from An Eye Doctor in Isle of Palms, SC

At The Eye Center of Charleston, we're proud to offer a breadth of eye care services under one roof tailored to you and your whole family. From pediatric myopia management and treatment for dry eye to popular eyewear options and complicated eye surgery, we're ready to help. Regardless of the reason why you visit our eye care office, you can have peace of mind knowing that your patient experience will be comfortably curated for you.

Contact our eye care center today to learn more about our practice and to schedule an initial consultation with one of our expert eye doctors.

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Latest News in Isle of Palms, SC

New waterfront park coming to Isle of Palms this year

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - The Isle of Palms City Council in 2020 voted to make additions to the marina area of the island and that project is officially slated to be completed this year.The project included the addition of a public dock, a boardwalk and a waterfront park and greenspace. The boardwalk and public dock have been completed, and, as of Jan. 11, the construction contract for the waterfront park and greenspace was officially confirmed.The waterfront park will cover the 300 by 25 foot wide area along the marina faci...

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - The Isle of Palms City Council in 2020 voted to make additions to the marina area of the island and that project is officially slated to be completed this year.

The project included the addition of a public dock, a boardwalk and a waterfront park and greenspace. The boardwalk and public dock have been completed, and, as of Jan. 11, the construction contract for the waterfront park and greenspace was officially confirmed.

The waterfront park will cover the 300 by 25 foot wide area along the marina facing the Intracoastal Waterway. There will be a 6-foot wide concrete walkway. The park will include a large lawn area with lush planting.

They plan to include a series of benches along the waterfront walkway so residents can enjoy views of the water and boating activities. There are plans for a circular seat wall near the public dock that would create an entrance to the dock area.

They plan to include a kayak storage area and a kayak launch area. There will be golf cart parking available as well as bicycle parking areas.

All of these plans did require collaboration and participation from the marina manager and restaurant tenants. Scott Toole, the general manager of the Outpost, a nearby restaurant, says he is very excited for this addition to the area.

“I think that it’s an added benefit to the island, to the residents, everybody, to have a space and to use the dock. Kayak launching is a big thing that I think people will take advantage of.” he says. “It’s really going to help make this area kind of a place of interest for people, sort of a destination so to speak, for people to be able to get some food, get some drink, watch the water and use the dock that’s right there.”

Toole says they very recently renovated the Outpost and he’s excited to see this new project bring more people to the area. He says he feels like this area of Isle of Palms is often overlooked as it is a little ways away from the main beach.

“We’ve kind of joked that it’s a small corner of the island and so, anything that’s bringing people down this direction is good for everybody. We’re excited to see this project take place,” he says.

The project is currently slated to be completed by May of this year. To provide City Council your input on this project you can click here.

Copyright 2024 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Isle of Palms voters to decide on new short-term rental limits

It's the latest skirmish in a much broader fight over the future of these sorts of vacation usages that's been playing out across South Carolina.“If nothing else, we are keeping the sign business afloat," said Mayor Phillip Pounds.Isle of Palms is among the communities on the frontlines — all places where high demand from vacationers fuels the short-term rental business. Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach and Beaufort limit such rentals; Sullivan's Island prohibits them; ...

It's the latest skirmish in a much broader fight over the future of these sorts of vacation usages that's been playing out across South Carolina.

“If nothing else, we are keeping the sign business afloat," said Mayor Phillip Pounds.

Isle of Palms is among the communities on the frontlines — all places where high demand from vacationers fuels the short-term rental business. Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach and Beaufort limit such rentals; Sullivan's Island prohibits them; Myrtle Beach doesn't allow new ones in residential neighborhoods.

The Isle of Palms referendum calls for imposing a 1,600 cap on short-term rental licenses for investors and second-home owners. There would continue to be no cap for homes that are the owners' primary residence.

It's about preserving the island's quality of life, say supporters. More than 30 percent of the city's registered voters signed a petition to get the referendum on the ballot.

“We have a growing number of short-term rental licenses in residential communities," said Randy Bell, a former councilman working with pro-referendum group Preserve Isle of Palms Now. "We are trying to maintain the one-third, one-third, one-third split between full-time residents, second homes and rental properties."

Opponents say it's really about property rights and property values. An investment property or second home could be harder to sell, and worth less, if there's no certainty it could be used for short-term rentals.

“What are we trying to solve?" said Hugh Swingle, an island resident whose family business is Palm Blvd Vacation Rentals. "We just don’t see that there’s an actual problem.”

The city had issued 1,625 licenses to property owners who are not full-time residents as of early October, and if the referendum were to pass, no new ones would be available until the number drops below 1,600.

"Obviously, we don't think it's good," said Ryan Buckhannon, president of the Isle of Palms Chamber of Commerce. He's a former councilman who owns an investment property licensed for short-term rentals.

Supporters and detractors of the referendum have set up websites, put out yard signs and sent mailings.

Isle of Palms United opposes the cap and claims on its website, iopunited.com, that taxes "have to" go up and property values will go down if the referendum were to pass. That group and others claim property values plunged 25 to 30 percent on Folly Beach after a February voter referendum capped short-term licenses there at 800.

Charleston Trident Association of Realtors data gives reason to question such claims. According to CTAR data, the median price of a house sold on Folly Beach in 2023 through September was down 14.9 percent, but the median price of a condo or townhouse sold there was up 28.2 percent.

“There’s no basis for the claim that property values will plummet by 40 percent," said Bell.

Swingle, who is affiliated with Isle of Palms United, said a cap could be a big problem for people who want to sell a property in the years ahead.

“If there were a cap in place, and you own one of those tiny condos and you went to sell it, you could have a really hard time without a (short-term rental) license," he said.

Swingle expects the vote to be close.

Preserve Isle of Palms Now supports the referendum, which the group says on preserveiop.org is about keeping the island a great place to live and preserving its residential nature by not allowing unlimited short-term rentals.

"IOP residents are either already experiencing or can foresee future problems with water and sewer capacity, traffic & parking congestion, environmental impacts, and the availability of long-term rental housing," the group's website says.

The Palm Republic, an organization created by former Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll and current Councilman Blair Hahn, has also created programming opposing the referendum. Hahn even alleged in a YouTube video that referendum supporters have talked about driving down property values in order to get deals on real estate.

News

The island has long been known as a place to rent a house or condo at the beach, or to have a second home that could be rented out for much of the year.

Full-time residents own about a third of the homes, and they can rent out those homes for up to 72 days each year if they have a short-term rental license. As of early October, 184 owner-occupied homes on Isle of Palms had short-term rental licenses.

“It’s a vacation spot, and has always been a rental community, to some extent," said Pounds, the mayor, who declined to say how he will vote. "We have 1,400 condos, give or take."

That's a lot on an island with about 4,400 residents. Most of those condos are in Wild Dunes or former hotels in the commercial area along the beachfront, and most are for rent. Many single-family homes across the island are also licensed for short-term renters.

While full-time residents are the minority of property owners on the island, they are the only people who can vote.

The referendum is on the ballot because of a petition signed by 1,173 of the city's 3,740 registered voters. That petition put a short-term rental ordinance before City Council, and after the council declined to pass that ordinance in July, it became a ballot referendum.

If the referendum were to pass, the ordinance would take effect.

The Isle of Palms yes/no referendum question is: "Shall the City of Isle of Palms limit the investment short term rental business licenses to a maximum of 1,600?"

Across the marsh in neighboring Mount Pleasant, which has more than 94,000 residents, just 400 short-term rental permits are allowed.

Supporters of short-term rentals hope state lawmakers will act to prohibit and invalidate any local restrictions in 2024. A measure aimed at limiting local governments' ability to restrain short-term rentals failed earlier this year.

Palmetto Politics

Folly Beach earlier this year imposed a short-term rental cap following a referendum. Folly Beach has fewer than half as many residences as Isle of Palms, and the town now has an 800-license limit on short-term rentals.

Isle of Palms would have 1,600, plus as many licenses as full-time residents want for their homes, if the referendum were to pass. Residents will also choose four City Council members in the election, from eight candidates.

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Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

DHEC takes Isle of Palms seawall fight to court

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) — The ongoing conflict between the South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and a homeowner on the Isle of Palms has now gone to court.After storms in August and December 2023 led to significant beach erosion, Rom Reddy, an oceanfront property owner, took matters into his own hands by building a wall to prot...

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) — The ongoing conflict between the South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and a homeowner on the Isle of Palms has now gone to court.

After storms in August and December 2023 led to significant beach erosion, Rom Reddy, an oceanfront property owner, took matters into his own hands by building a wall to protect his property near Breach Inlet from beach erosion.

However, earlier this month, DHEC officials told News 2 that anything built on critical areas of the coast, like beaches, needs a permit. They added that after investigating Reddy’s wall, they issued Reddy and the contractor cease and desist directives because it was an “unauthorized structure.”

However, DHEC officials said Reddy’s work on the wall continued even after the directives were issued.

Now, attorneys for DHEC have taken the battle to court, filing a temporary restraining order (TRO) and petition for injunctive relief in South Carolina Administrative Law Court.

“Due to the Respondents’ egregious disregard of OCRM’s Notice to Comply and the two Cease and Desist Directives, the Department has no adequate remedy at law other than to seek judicial intervention to compel the Respondents to immediately cease their unauthorized actions in the critical area,” the court filing reads.

This week, Reddy’s lawyers responded to the agency’s court filings requesting that the judge deny the motion for a TRO and petition for injunctive relief.

Reddy’s lawyers argue that his wall is not located in a critical area and that DHEC lacks the subject matter jurisdiction to issue the cease and desist in the first place. “In issuing these directives, Petitioner [DHEC] is unilaterally and unfairly extending its jurisdiction to convert private property into a public beach,” the court filing reads.

They also say that the cease and desist is a moot point because no ongoing work was being done when DHEC filed the TRO. “Petitioner [DHEC] seeks a TRO and injunctive relief to allegedly stop Respondents from ‘continuing to install a hard erosion control structure adjacent'” to the Property. As of the date of this filing, no ongoing work is being done on the Property: therefore, Petitioner’s cease-and-desist directives are moot,” they wrote.

Reddy’s attorneys also filed a countersuit against DHEC and the city of Isle of Palms with several claims, including that they violated Reddy’s constitutional rights. “DHEC has engaged in actions and inactions that have converted Respondents· private property into a public beach without justcompensation in violation of the South Carolina Constitution and the United States Constitution,” they argue.

Reddy’s attorneys also claim that DHEC and Isle of Palms leaders failed to maintain the beach near his property. In the court filing, they write, “DHEC also fails to note that prior to the Idalia storm damage, in June of 2023, Respondents sent various letters and notices of the vulnerability of the Isle of Palms properties due to improper beach renourishment by Isle of Palms and Petitioner [DHEC].”

Reddy’s lawyers also requested the case be moved to circuit court for a jury trial.

News 2 reached out to Reddy for comment about the court filings. In a statement, he said “state jurisdiction over private property is set by the SC General Assembly and last approved in 2018. DHEC, a state agency has illegally taken upon itself the task of claiming jurisdiction property by property based on a single storm. This provides Government unlimited and varying jurisdiction over private land. This is unconstitutional and will not stand”.

When News 2 asked DHEC for comment, an agency spokesperson responded “DHEC doesn’t comment on pending litigation. DHEC’s Petition For Injunctive Relief and Motion for TRO and Preliminary Injunction explain in detail the Department’s position.”

The Chief Administrative Law Judge has set a hearing date on April 18 for DHEC’s motions. Both Reddy and DHEC will present their evidence at this time.

Isle of Palms noise ordinance up for discussion after questions from businesses

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - Big changes could be coming to the noise ordinance on Isle of Palms as city leaders hope to make the rules more clear.The city’s noise ordinance currently doesn’t list specific limits. A proposal would establish set decibel levels based on the time and day of the week as well as the area:Isle of Palms business owners got the chance to see the numbers and ask questions on Friday.“We want them to understand that they have a voice, we want to hear from them,” Police Chief...

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - Big changes could be coming to the noise ordinance on Isle of Palms as city leaders hope to make the rules more clear.

The city’s noise ordinance currently doesn’t list specific limits. A proposal would establish set decibel levels based on the time and day of the week as well as the area:

Isle of Palms business owners got the chance to see the numbers and ask questions on Friday.

“We want them to understand that they have a voice, we want to hear from them,” Police Chief Kevin Cornett said. “Anything that is going to impact businesses we want them to be able to come to us and say what they think about it.”

One area resident, who only identified himself as Paul, says the noise ordinance needs to have a balance.

“Obviously, late at night you don’t want people making a lot of noise walking up and down the streets while residents are trying to go to bed, but at the same time this is a vacation spot, so you have to have a little bit on leeway for people to enjoy themselves but also be respectful,” he said.

Cornett says they’re working to find a solution that will work for businesses and residents and increase livability for everyone.

Cornette says noise is a hot topic on the island and he values feedback on this from both residents and business owners.

“Everybody is very much invested in this conversation,” Cornett said. “The city council is taking it very seriously and they are going around and talking to people to get their input. So, I think they are doing a great job on making sure voices are heard so that when we get the final project it’s fair and something that will work for everybody.”

Officers use a calibrated decibel reader when called out to a noise complaint.

“That’s how we determine if it’s a violation and then we would take other factors into account like background noise to keep the realistic approach to is as well,” Cornett said.

The public safety committee has to create a final draft before it will head to the city council for two separate readings.

Copyright 2024 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Spring into a litter-free beach with the IOP Cleanup Crew

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - Volunteers are needed to help keep litter off the beaches.The Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew partners with the South Carolina Aquarium to host litter sweeps where volunteers gather together to clean up the beach and push for preventative measures while also collecting data on the litter that is found. The IOP Cleanup Crew has just kicked off their Spring Litter Sweeps to get trash off the beach, protect the wildlife and prevent pollution. The organization began in 2018 and has collected and documented over 175...

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - Volunteers are needed to help keep litter off the beaches.

The Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew partners with the South Carolina Aquarium to host litter sweeps where volunteers gather together to clean up the beach and push for preventative measures while also collecting data on the litter that is found. The IOP Cleanup Crew has just kicked off their Spring Litter Sweeps to get trash off the beach, protect the wildlife and prevent pollution. The organization began in 2018 and has collected and documented over 175,000 pieces of litter.

The organization does litter sweeps throughout the year. They do them once a month during the winter and twice a week in the summer, but the spring sweeps are a good opportunity to begin your involvement because they are the only ones that include a welcome session. The welcome session provides volunteers with an overview of the litter and pollution crisis these areas are facing and what is expected of a volunteer. The Spring Litter Sweeps take place every other Monday.

Anyone can volunteer. There is no registration required. The organization provides buckets, gloves and clipboards with data sheets to all volunteers. The IOP Cleanup Crew is very flexible with volunteers. Volunteers are only expected to collect litter for half an hour but are welcome to stay the full hour. There is no commitment, you show up when you can. They only ask that you provide a heads-up if you are bringing a group of 15 or more so they can be prepared.

IOP Cleanup Crew Co-Founder Susan Hill Smith says that every bit of effort makes a difference.

“We like to keep the beach beautiful. But we also are really out here to help protect wildlife and natural ecosystems. Plastic Pollution is a real crisis and just every volunteer that comes out can know that they’re making a difference if they’re collecting litter on the beach,” she says.

She says it all starts with being more aware of leaving your trash on the beach when you visit. She says it is most of the time accidental. They see a lot of straw wrappers blow away in the wind and other small trash items that people may not think much about but can be extremely harmful to the environment and wildlife in the area which can eventually impact the human population as well. Smith says they are always encouraging volunteers.

The next Spring Litter Sweep takes place Monday at 6 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. if you plan to attend the welcome session. The meeting area is near the public restrooms on the 1100 block of Ocean Blvd. near Coconut Joe’s and Smugglers. Volunteers receive a discount at some of the nearby participating restaurants.

Since 2018, the organization has seen its efforts make a difference. Smith says they have seen decreases in the amount of litter impacting the environment. When volunteers go out, they document the litter they find and put it into the Litter Journal. This is a database created by the South Carolina Aquarium to track the litter collected in hopes of finding solutions. The Litter Journal is then used by local leaders to make changes.

The most found material is plastic and the most found item is cigarette butts. The South Carolina Aquarium Conservation Programs Coordinator Linda Rowe says that they have found that roughly 70% of all litter cleaned up is some form of plastic.

Using this data, the City and the IOP Cleanup Crew have been able to start integrating preventative measures. Some of these actions include adding a toy bucket to place toys found left on the beach, initiating a no-smoking ordinance on the beaches, adding a filling station to encourage the use of reusable water bottles and leaving buckets out for patrons to collect trash at any time. Since initiating some of these efforts they have steadily seen declines in litter collected each year.

For example, since the no-smoking policy was put into place, cigarette butts went from making up 1/3 of the littered items on the beach to under 20% according to last year’s data. Isle of Palms was also the first municipality in the State of South Carolina to create and pass the single-use ordinance ban to rid of single-use plastics and many areas have followed. They have also used this data to have conversations with businesses about changing to-go packaging or retail bags to be more sustainable. This data has also led to several municipalities adding more signage and cigarette butt receptacles in the areas where smoking is permitted.

Rowe says the improvement starts as more people realize the impact litter has. She believes the litter sweeps can help this greatly.

“Raising awareness is such a big part of it. And when people do this activity, whether they’re with a group or by themselves, once you start seeing the litter and noticing it, you never go back to not seeing it. And so it’s a great way for people to recognize that there’s an issue and to do something about it,” she says.

The South Carolina Aquarium created a Conservation Program after seeing a sharp increase in wildlife - especially sea turtles - ingesting plastic and how much of a problem it was. Litter impacts the environment and wildlife, but also impacts public health.

The next litter sweeps will take place on March 25, April 8, April 22, May 6 and May 20. The April 22 litter sweep coincides with Earth Day 2024 which is themed “Planet vs. Plastics.”

Following the Spring Litter Sweeps, they will begin the summer sweeps which will take place every Monday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. and Wednesday mornings from 7 to 8 a.m.

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