Hands Across the Sand event planned for North Litchfield Beach

Hands Across the Sand event planned for North Litchfield Beach

South Strand News
May 17, 2018

By Clayton Stairs

People concerned about the future of the world’s oceans will join hands May 19 on beaches around the globe.

Locally, a grassroots organization called Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, known as SODA, will host its third annual Hands Across the Sand event from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on North Litchfield Beach. Access is provided at Walkway #54.

“This is one of many Hands Across the Sand events occurring up and down the Atlantic Coast as citizens form a line down the beach to show the determination to protect and nourish the Atlantic Ocean, and all the waterways and environment of the U.S. coastal areas,” said the Rev. Jim Watkins, chairman of the leadership committee for SODA. “Hands will send the message that industrialization of the South Carolina Coast by the oil and gas industry will not happen.”

The process is moving forward for offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean while local, regional and national groups concerned about the environment are urging those opposed to drilling to contact their elected officials with their concerns.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced Jan. 4 that the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has opened 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for future exploration and development. That is after more than 140 communities, including Georgetown County, Georgetown City, Pawleys Island, Horry County, Wilmington, Virginia Beach, Charleston, and Savannah, and thousands of businesses, trade groups and tourism associations have passed resolutions opposing Atlantic drilling and seismic testing.

Nine lease sales in the Atlantic Region are in the Draft Proposed Program — three sales each for the Mid- and South Atlantic, which includes South Carolina; two for the North Atlantic and one for the Straits of Florida. There have been no sales in the Atlantic since 1983 and there are no existing leases.

Also, new fears of releasing toxic and radioactive materials buried in the ocean floor are fueling concerns about the affects of seismic testing for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. That group filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Department of Defense to obtain the facts about ammunition dumps in the Atlantic that contain conventional, chemical and radioactive weapons and materials.

“The Department of Defense reports that from 1917 to the 1970s conventional and chemical weapons were officially dumped in 33 sites off the Atlantic Coast. Five of them are off the South Carolina Coast,” Chamber President Frank Knapp stated in a press release. “Thus, the casings of these weapons have been in the ocean for 48 to 100 years.”

He said no one knows where all these weapons are because firsthand accounts from sailors on U.S. Navy vessels responsible for the dumping say that when the weather was bad the weapons were dumped much closer to shore and not in specified dump sites. The Department of Defense report lists a total of over 17,000 tons of chemical agents disposed in official Atlantic Coast sea-based munitions dumps, the release states.

Knapp also stated that a 2016 Department of Defense report concludes that “recovering sea-disposed munitions may cause them to either break apart and release their contents or detonate” and that these weapons should not be disturbed.

“Why does the government establish exclusion zones around unexploded weapons if the seismic surveys pose no danger of disturbing those weapons?,” Knapp said. “The answer is simple. There is a degree of risk. Any risk of setting toxic and radioactive waste free in the ocean is unacceptable to our coastal communities. Research must be conducted.”

To attend the Hands Across the Sand event, take U.S. Highway 17 to Boyle Drive in North Litchfield; proceed to the end of the road and turn left on Parker Road. Walkway #54 is on the right. It has a large entryway with ramp access. Another Hands Across the Sand event will be held on the same date and time at Anderson Park, 19th Avenue North at Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.