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Mortgage Broker in Charleston, SC

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Classic Home Mortgage Providing Trustworthy Mortgage Guidance for Over 30 Years

Buying a home is one of the most significant investments that you will ever make. Like most good things, finding the perfect home comes with a lot of work. From your initial search online to your home tour and finally closing, there are many difficult decisions to make along the way. The bottom line is that the entire home buying process can be very stressful, especially when it comes to finding the right mortgage broker and loan for your new home. Since market conditions and mortgage programs change frequently, you have a lot riding on your broker's ability to provide quick and accurate financial advice. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or own several residential properties, you need a mortgage broker in Charleston, SC, who can educate you on mortgage rates and provide trustworthy guidance to help you make an informed decision.

My name is Dan Crance - Charleston's most trusted mortgage loan officer with more than 30 years in the mortgage industry. I bring unparalleled insight and decades of experience into your home loan process. If you're looking for a new home loan, are interested in refinancing your current mortgage, or need information regarding FHA, VA, or other types of loans, Dan Crance is Your Mortgage Man.

Unlike some mortgage loan officers in Charleston, my primary goal is to help you make the right mortgage choice for you and your family. Mortgage lenders have a horrible reputation for turning over clients quickly to expedite cash flow and make the most money possible. While some mortgage brokers come off as pushy and impatient, I encourage my clients to take as much time as they need to ask questions and review their mortgage agreements. I'm here to help answer those questions and provide you with easy-to-understand advice so that you can rest easy knowing you made the right choice. I could say that I strive to provide service that exceeds your expectations, but I'd rather show you. In the end, I want you to leave feeling confident in the loan you've selected, as well as in your choice of broker.

Service Areas
Mortgage Broker Charleston, SC
 Refinance Charleston, SC

Why Choose Dan Crance As Your Mortgage Lender in Charleston, SC?

Clients choose my mortgage company because I truly care about helping them navigate the often-confusing landscape of the mortgage process. I am fiercely dedicated to my clients and make every effort to provide them with trustworthy advice and an open line of communication.

In my business, I work for two different customers. On one hand, I have the buyer: the person entrusting me with the responsibility of guiding them through one of the most important decisions ever. Serving homebuyers is not a task that I take lightly. I work with them daily to help them through the process and provide timely updates and news on their mortgage status. On the other hand, I have the realtor: the person who works with my client to find their dream home. Since their commission is in my hands, working with realtors is also a very important task. I update these agents on the status of their customers weekly. Only when I take care of both parties can I say my job as a mortgage loan officer is complete.

As a mortgage broker with more than 30 years of experience, I pledge to give you the highest level of customer service while providing you with the most competitive loan products available. That way, you can buy the home of your dreams without second-guessing your decision.

 Conventional Mortgage Charleston, SC

Home Financing in Charleston, SC

At Classic Home Mortgage, our team works diligently to close on time without stress or hassle. Whether you're a seasoned homeowner or are buying your new home in Charleston, we understand how much stress is involved. Our goal is to help take that stress off of your plate by walking you through every step of the home loan process. Because every one of our clients is different, we examine each loan with fresh eyes and a personalized approach, to find you the options and programs you need.

With over 30 years as a mortgage professional in Charleston, Dan Crance will help you choose the home loan, interest rate, term options, and payment plans that fit your unique situation.

 FHA Mortgages Charleston, SC

When you work with Classic Home Mortgage, you can always count on our team to:

  • Put your needs first.
  • Work efficiently and quickly. Many of our home loans close in 30 days or less.
  • Offer you a variety of home loans to choose from, and help you make an informed decision.
  • Provide you with competitive rates that make sense for your budget and lifestyle.

While no two loan terms are the same, a few of the most common loan types include:

30-Year Loan - This loan is often considered the most secure option to choose. With a 30-year loan, you can lock in a low payment amount and rest easy knowing your rate won't change.

FHA Loan - If you're not able to make a large down payment, an FHA loan could be the right choice for you. With an FHA loan, many of our clients have successfully purchased a home with less than 4% down.

VA Loan - This loan is reserved for military veterans and active-duty men and women. Those who qualify may be able to purchase a home with no down payment and no Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

Choosing a home loan is an important step in the home buying process. At Classic Home Mortgage, we are here to make choosing a loan as easy as possible, so you can focus on the joys of being a homeowner. Contact our team of experts today and ask how you can get pre-qualified for your home loan in Charleston, SC.

Refinancing in
Charleston, SC

Because home mortgage rates in the U.S. have been so low over the last year, many current homeowners are opting to refinance their home loans. Simply put, refinancing is replacing your existing mortgage with a different mortgage under new terms. Homeowners who refinance their homes enjoy lower interest rates, lower monthly payments, and even turn their home's equity into cash. If you're interested in refinancing your home, it all begins with a call to your mortgage broker in Charleston, SC - Dan Crance.

Here are just a few reasons why more homeowners in the U.S. are taking advantage of lower rates and refinancing their homes:
 Home Ready Mortgages Charleston, SC
Shorter Term Loan

Shorter Term Loan

Refinancing from a 30-year to a 15-year mortgage might seem counterproductive on the surface because your monthly payment usually goes up. However, interest rates on 15-year mortgages are lower. And when you shave off years of your previous mortgage, you will pay less interest over time. These savings can be very beneficial if you are not taking the mortgage interest deduction on your tax returns.

Do Away with FHA

Do Away with FHA

FHA loans are notorious for paying premiums for the life of the loan. Mortgage insurance premiums for FHA loans can cost borrowers as much as $1,050 a year for every $100k borrowed. The only way to get rid of mortgage insurance premiums is to refinance to a new loan that the Federal Housing Authority does not back.

Switch to Fixed Rate or Adjustable-Rate Home Loan

Switch to Fixed Rate or Adjustable-Rate Home Loan

Sometimes, borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages refinance so they can switch to a fixed rate, which lets them lock in an interest rate. Doing so is beneficial for some homeowners who like to know exactly how much their monthly payment is each month. Conversely, some homeowners with fixed rates prefer to refinance to an adjustable-rate mortgage. Homeowners often go this route if they plan on selling in a few years and don't mind risking a higher rate if their plans fall through.

 Mortgage Banker Charleston, SC

Common Questions About Home Loans

Finding the right loan can be a difficult proposition, even if you have been through the process before. This is especially true since mortgage rates and market conditions change frequently. If you're like most of my clients, you probably have questions about interest rates, refinancing options, and a litany of other topics. To help alleviate some of your stress, here are just a few common questions with answers so that you can better educate yourself as we work our way to securing your loan.

Generally speaking, you should consider refinancing when mortgage rates are 2% lower than the current rate on your home loan. For some homeowners, refinancing makes sense when there is only a 1% difference. Reducing your mortgage rate is a great way to save money or apply your savings to a home upgrade. The money you save on your refinanced loan depends on your loan amount, budget, income, and charges from interest rates. It's crucial that you work with a trusted mortgage loan officer in Charleston, SC, to help calculate your refinancing options.
This is one of our most frequently asked questions at Classic Home Mortgage. In simple terms, points let you make a tradeoff between the upfront costs of your loan and your monthly payment amount. Points are essentially costs that you have to pay to your mortgage lender to get financing under specific terms. A point is defined as a percentage on your loan amount. 1-point is equal to 1% of the loan. So, 1 point on a loan worth $100,000 is equivalent to $1,000. When you pay some of the interest on your home loan upfront, you use discount points to lower your interest rate.
If you plan to live in the property for a few years, it makes a lot of sense to pay points to lower your interest rate. Doing so will help lower your monthly loan payment, which you can use to save money. Paying points may also increase the amount of money that you can borrow. If you do not plan on living in the property for at least a few years, this strategy might not make financial sense because you might not be able to make up the amount of the discount points you paid up-front.
In short, yes, your mortgage lender will need to know your credit score. Credit scoring is a system that creditors use to decide whether they will give you credit. Your credit score helps creditors decide how creditworthy you are or how likely you will repay your loan. In most circumstances, creditors will use your FICO scores during the loan process. Your score will fall between high risk (350) and low risk (850). Your credit score plays a big role in the loan process, and as such, your score must be accurate before submitting a credit report when applying for a loan.
The answer to this question depends on how money you choose to put as a down payment on your home. On a conventional loan, if your down payment is less than 20% of the price of your home, your mortgage broker in Charleston may require you to get Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI for short. This insurance protects your lender in the event you default on your mortgage. The best way to avoid paying for this insurance is to make a down payment of 20% or more of the purchase price of your home.
 Mortgage Company Charleston, SC

Trust Dan Crance

Your Mortgage Lender in Charleston, SC

Whether you're selling, buying, refinancing, or building the home of your dreams, you have a lot riding on your home loan specialist. When you need a mortgage broker who works tirelessly for you, answers your questions, provides guidance, and does so with a genuine smile, Dan Crance is your mortgage man. Contact Dan today at 843-478-5612 to get pre-approved and discover why Charleston loves Classic Home Mortgage.

After hours by appointment only. CONTACT DAN

Latest News in Charleston, SC

CCSD parts ways with suspended superintendent Eric Gallien

Gallien ousted ...

Gallien ousted

CCSD parts ways with suspended superintendent Eric Gallien

The Charleston County School Board part ways with suspended Superintendent Eric Gallien. Settlement is what he wanted, board members say. Terms have not been revealed. Read moreCCSD parts ways with suspended superintendent Eric Gallien

The short-story writer, poet, essayist and editor most known for his fictional horror-laced macabre tales, from “The Raven” to “The Masque of the Red Death” to “The Tell-Tale Heart,” is a particularly apt figure to surface in October, right around Halloween. And he has a Charleston connection.

Happy Halloweekend! There’s a ton of fun to get into, including a Lego fan convention, several Charleston Beer Week kickoff events and the ultimate “Rocky Horror” experience.

University of South Carolina workers say recent wage increases haven’t kept up with soaring cost of living rates in Columbia. Some say they have to choose between paying bills and buying groceries.

Georgetown County just placed tougher penalties on those who cut down protected trees in rural areas and in the Waccamaw Neck portion of the Hammock Coast.

Hogan: Time-traveling to 1960s Saigon with a famed author (oh, and Barbie, too)

A tell-tale presence: Edgar Allan Poe’s Charleston connection from fact to lore

The inside story of a man burned in a fire, his $30M bill and the enduring power of family

In its second year with new ride vendor Reithoffer Shows, the Coastal Carolina Fair will boast eight new rides, almost a dozen new food vendors and an amped-up agricultural program. Read moreYour guide to the 2023 Coastal Carolina Fair in Ladson

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Worst-case scenarios: Clemson hosts ‘active threat’ training over fall break

Following hit to head, CCU’s Grayson McCall released from hospital; scans are ‘very positive’

Support local news you can trust. We depend on the support of our loyal subscribers to produce meaningful journalism every day. Help us continue this important work: Subscribe today.


Sapakoff: Gamecocks? World Series? Jordan Montgomery is ‘the same guy’

Hogan: Time-traveling to 1960s Saigon with a famed author (oh, and Barbie, too)


Crab Bank’s 2nd nesting season a ‘remarkable’ success for black skimmers, least terns


Editorial: Move more municipal elections to odd-numbered Novembers

Explosion survivor returns to family’s loving embrace after nearly 80% of body was burned


Murdaugh’s former SC estate Moselle back on market. Will murders impact value?

‘Blood feud’: The history of one SC town’s long, winding fight for water and power

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Shrimp and grits return to former Hominy Grill space. Now, they’re topped with feta.

When the newly renovated Greek Revival-style building at 207 Rutledge Ave. was stripped of its iconic 10-foot mural, Charleston appeared to be losing an important piece of its culinary history.But Candice Hudnall, owner of Hamby Catering & Events, do...

When the newly renovated Greek Revival-style building at 207 Rutledge Ave. was stripped of its iconic 10-foot mural, Charleston appeared to be losing an important piece of its culinary history.

But Candice Hudnall, owner of Hamby Catering & Events, does not want people to forget about Hominy Grill, which garnered national acclaim before closing in 2019.

Known for its triangular shrimp- and chicken-salad tea sandwiches, Hamby has also become a household name in Charleston over the last four decades. The West Ashley-based company built on that legacy in September, opening The Rutledge Room where Hominy Grill served for over two decades.

When plans for Hamby Catering & Events’ new flagship venue were being drawn, Hudnall recalls walking inside the building for the first time in quite some time. Memories of standing in line for brunch at Hominy Grill came rushing back. She could taste the biscuits and shrimp and grits and hear the excited chatter erupting outside the famed Charleston restaurant.

Rutledge Room bites like a brown sugar pound cake with caramel drizzle — a replica of a Hominy Grill dessert Hamby’s pastry chef whipped up for The Rutledge Room’s opening event Sept. 13 — point to the past. Other dishes, like Hamby’s own shrimp and grits, will get a contemporary twist when served at The Rutledge Room.

Instead of the catering company’s traditional toppings of the Tasso gravy, bacon crumbles and cheddar, Hamby Executive Chef Dawn Sanders is serving stone-ground yellow grits with a tomato gravy and feta at the new venue. Lamb with chimichurri and vegetable spring rolls with edible flowers, herbs and vermicelli noodles are two other examples of new Hamby Catering dishes served exclusively at The Rutledge Room.

The number of remote workers who now call Charleston home has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chances are those individuals and others with a laptop in tow might want a break from their home office every once in a while.

These 20 Charleston coffee shops and cafes are where to go when searching for coffee, food and free Wi-Fi:

Babas on Meeting

804 Meeting St., downtown Charleston

Gourmet coffee, pastries and sandwiches served on buttery sliced bread are available at Babas on Meeting, where goat.sheep.cow.north and popular Cannon Street café Babas teamed up to reopen a space that was closed to dine-in customers for the better part of two years. Babas on Meeting has more seating, indoors and out, than its Cannon Street counterpart. While more people will be found chatting over a bottle of wine than crowded over their laptop, a few high-top tables and a bar serve as suitable seats for remote workers.

Bad Bunnies

116 Spring St., downtown Charleston

Bad Bunnies opened at the start of 2023 in the 116 Spring St. space previously occupied by Sunshine Hummus. The stunning interior has plenty of space for remote workers to settle in and stay awhile. Bad Bunnies sources its coffee from Second State and its pastries from EVO Craft Bakery.

Baguette Magic

792 Folly Road Unit A, James Island

Mathieu Richard started Baguette Magic in 2009 as a farmers market stand before opening the retail location on Folly Road in 2011. After purchasing the business in 2019 and freshening up its menu, sisters Paula and Sam Kramer have brought lines of locals to Baguette Magic for breakfast and lunch, where they serve everything from almond croissants and house-made pop tarts to avocado toast, brioche French toast and Italian sub sandwiches.

Baguette Magic offers free Wi-Fi and even has a few useable outlets if you need to plug in.


511 Meeting St., downtown Charleston

With ample seating, Bl?m serves Counter Culture Coffee that can be flavored with house-made syrups, pastries and ready-to-eat breakfast and lunch items in a fridge to the left of the coffee bar. Working late? Bl?m patrons have the option to switch from coffee to local craft beers from Charleston and Columbia breweries.


23 Ann St., downtown Charleston

Bodega — which offers lunch sandwiches, house-made pastries, matcha lattes and free Wi-Fi — serves a daytime menu from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For breakfast, chef Alec Gropman’s signature sandwiches served on house-made Kaiser rolls are the star, with The Lowcountry (house-made breakfast sausage, egg, cheddar and sausage gravy) and Bodega Classic (egg and white American cheese with bacon, Taylor ham, sausage or vegan sausage) having already emerged as local favorites.

H? Long Café

281 Meeting St., downtown Charleston

The bubble tea component of H? Long Café is a franchise of Ding Tea, a Taiwan-based brand with dozens of locations worldwide. As a result, you’ll find nearly 100 drink options at H? Long, from Jasmine green tea lattes and lychee milk tea to passion fruit slushies, kumquat tea and aloe vera kiwi juice.

Highfalutin Coffee Roasters

27 Magnolia Road, West Ashley

989 Harbor View Road, James Island

Highfalutin’s West Ashley location is usually full of working individuals on their computers inside, and there is a gorgeous seating area outside with flowers galore. The coffee is good, and the space is beautiful.

The James Island location also has Wi-Fi and outdoor seating.

Interstate 95 Coffee

1300 Savannah Highway, West Ashley

Order a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with your coffee at this West Ashley café. The long table on the left can be a wonderful workspace, particularly if you snag a seat on the end near the power outlet.


701 East Bay St., downtown Charleston

One half of the Mercantile & Mash project by Indigo Road Hospitality Group, this café has ample seating, espresso drinks and gourmet lunch options. Housed in the Cigar Factory development, Mercantile even has butchers carving up steaks and pastry chefs crafting cakes in the back.

Metto Coffee & Tea

354 West Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant

Charleston County Council votes to preserve law protecting settlement communities

After weeks of deliberation and debate that pitted real estate developers against preservationists, Charleston County Council on Oct. 24 decided against amending a law designed to protect historic settlement communities from suburban sprawl.Three members voted in favor of the amendments, while five voted against. One member, Kylon Middleton, did not vote because he was out of town, though he joined the meeting online. Middleton expressed disappointment in the outcome.The issue could get a third and final vote at the next counci...

After weeks of deliberation and debate that pitted real estate developers against preservationists, Charleston County Council on Oct. 24 decided against amending a law designed to protect historic settlement communities from suburban sprawl.

Three members voted in favor of the amendments, while five voted against. One member, Kylon Middleton, did not vote because he was out of town, though he joined the meeting online. Middleton expressed disappointment in the outcome.

The issue could get a third and final vote at the next council meeting on Nov. 14.

“It’s not over yet,” warned Councilman Henry Darby, who seeks to strengthen safeguards against unwanted development in historic areas.

Those voting in favor of changing the law were Brantley Moody, Joy Boykin and Jenny Costa Honeycutt. Those voting against the modifications were Darby, Larry Kobrovsky, Robert Wehrman, Teddie Pryor and Herbert Sass.

The ordinance, which established and empowered a Historic Preservation Commission, will remain unchanged for now, although many agree — including preservationists — that the law, and the methods used to protect historic neighborhoods, could be improved.

Since 2021, when the commission began operating, developers have been obliged to obtain a certificate of historic appropriateness before their subdivision designs could get final approval from the planning commission. Had the amendments to the law gone into effect, that certificate no longer would have been required as a prerequisite. The Historic Preservation Commission would have functioned only in an advisory capacity.

County staff and some members of the planning commission argued in favor of amending the ordinance because of an alleged conflict between the powers of the HPC and state law, though defenders of the ordinance’s protections rejected that claim.

Preservationists, residents of settlement communities and a few council members have insisted that the ordinance should not be altered without first creating other ways to protect the county’s 20 settlement communities.

Kobrovsky, noting the shift over the last few weeks among his colleagues, called the outcome “a big victory.” The settlement communities are an essential, unique and special part of the Lowcountry, he said. They are the result of “generations of blood, sweat and tears” and must be preserved.

Weakening the ordinance, and thus the powers of the HPC, would have meant the eventual demise of these neighborhoods, Kobrovsky said. Development pressure is increasing in rural areas as the population grows and, if controls are lacking, the whole stretch of land between Mount Pleasant and McClellanville will fill in with subdivisions, he added.

“This is the next frontier; much already has been built out,” he said, adding that development now is encroaching on the county’s settlement communities.

One development company, Crescent Homes, is suing the county because of what it alleges is unfair treatment after getting the necessary permits to build out three subdivisions in the 10 Mile Community near Awendaw.

The HPC denied Crescent Homes the certificate of historic appropriateness, inserting a monkey wrench in the works. The developer had already invested $9 million in projects that had received a green light from the planning commission, and now Crescent Homes is arguing that it has a right to continue with its plans.

The planning commission recently voted to issue final approval of Crescent Homes’ subdivision designs even without the HPC’s certification — an apparent breach of the law. But county staff argued that, due to a presumed conflict with state law, the approval was appropriate.

During the Oct. 24 council meeting, members voted in a 4-4 tie on a zoning change to reduce the density of new construction in the Ten Mile Community from four houses per acre to three. The tie would have meant no change to the zoning and an end to the question, a disappointment to neighborhood advocates. But when that outcome became evident, Darby changed his vote and joined a majority opposed to the new designation in order to keep the matter alive.


Council members who vote in the majority have a right to revisit an issue at the next meeting. Darby’s move indicates that he’s holding out hope for a different outcome.

Justin Schwebler, properties manager for Historic Charleston Foundation, credited members of the Ten Mile Community and other settlement communities for speaking out. It’s because of them that council has been forced to take development in these neighborhoods seriously. He said the response has been encouraging.

“It’s clear that council is anxious about pulling the rug out from under these communities,” Schwebler said.

He endorsed an idea raised at the council meeting by Ten Mile resident Craig Ascue to organize workshops that foster improved engagement between residents and county representatives. That collaborative effort could lead to a thoughtful restructuring of the ordinance that limits the county’s legal liability, strengthens the HPC and clarifies the process for developers, he said.

“That all needs to be done through a good, open, public process,” Schwebler said. “I hope (county) staff doesn’t see this as a rejection. We just want a seat at the table.”

Many issues remain unresolved. The Crescent Homes developments are subject to legal disputes; the zoning change is still in play; and an effort to establish an overlay district is in the works.

In the meantime, the 10 Mile community is in need of infrastructure upgrades, said resident Jerome Vanderhorst. Some areas — especially along Seafood Road, where one of the Crescent Homes subdivisions is being built — are prone to severe flooding, and speed limits are not observed, making the roads unnecessarily dangerous.

He’s waiting to see what council will do about all of this.

“The ball is in their court right now,” Vanderhorst said.

Letters: Allow Tesla to lease vehicles in SC

I am a resident of South Carolina, and like many others, I aspire to lease a Tesla.Regulations prevent us from doing so.This is not just about personal preference; it’s about consumer rights and fair trade.The inability to buy or lease a Tesla in our state is a restraint of trade that infringes on our fr...

I am a resident of South Carolina, and like many others, I aspire to lease a Tesla.

Regulations prevent us from doing so.

This is not just about personal preference; it’s about consumer rights and fair trade.

The inability to buy or lease a Tesla in our state is a restraint of trade that infringes on our freedom of choice as consumers.

Tesla vehicles are renowned for their innovative technology, eco-friendliness and safety features.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tesla Model 3 has achieved the lowest probability of injury among all cars tested by the agency.

Yet we are denied access to these high-quality vehicles due to state law.

South Carolina prides itself on being business-friendly with its low corporate income taxes and incentives for job creation. But by preventing companies such as Tesla from selling or leasing cars directly within the state, we are undermining this claim.

We call upon our lawmakers in South Carolina to reconsider these restrictions that limit our choices as consumers while also hindering economic growth within our state.

Let’s allow innovation and free-market principles to guide us toward progress rather than restrict us.



In our role as Charleston County School Board members, we uphold the values and policies guiding our educational system, including board policy that emphasizes respecting diverse opinions and the principle of majority rule.

These principles must extend beyond board meetings to our community.

Accusations against board members during recent public meetings are troubling.

Attendees’ behavior was inappropriate for students to witness, raising concerns that such actions might be seen as acceptable. This reminds us to strive for improvement within our board and community.

Within our schools, we’ve worked to create a safe, inclusive environment, free from bullying.

We must maintain a zero-tolerance stance against bullying, both in schools and our community.

Disruptive behavior, especially when silencing opposing views, contradicts the values we instill in our students.

Allowing such behavior erodes trust and respect in our community. We must set an example, showing that bullying is unacceptable in any form.

Let’s unite as a community to combat bullying in all its forms, reinforcing our commitment to respect and empathy.

Our example should ensure our students uphold these values, including respecting differing opinions.


Mount Pleasant

Everyone loves parks. Everyone wants them. We can always have more. But they take money not only to acquire the land, but also to build, maintain and staff.

Charleston residents have an opportunity this November to vote “yes” in a referendum to allow the issuing of general obligation bonds to implement the Charleston Parks and Recreation Master Plan approved by City Council.

Whether you already have a favorite park or wish to have one near your home, please consider voting “yes” in the parks and recreation bonds referendum.



Whether it is the responsibility of the city of Charleston, Charleston County or the S.C. Department of Transportation, dangerous roads in Charleston need to be fixed.

I was thrown recently from my moped at the intersection of Line Street and Hagood Avenue, and lost my two front teeth and suffered many scrapes and bruises. I had slowed down to about 20 mph, but was still thrown.

The worst part is that these terrible spots in the city are in the poorest parts of town.

How is that OK?



To submit a letter to the editor, send an email to letters@postandcourier.com or fill out the form on our online portal.

Letters can be a maximum of 250 words and are subject to editing for clarity, tone and libel. They must carry the writer’s name and address for publication and a daytime telephone number for verification.

Get a weekly recap of South Carolina opinion and analysis from The Post and Courier in your inbox on Monday evenings.

Charleston fish show high levels of forever chemicals

There’s not only something in our water — but it’s in our fish, too, according to recent data reported by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).The state agency from July 2022 to June 2023 collected tissue samples from blue crabs, oysters and freshwater fish in water bodies across South Carolina to test for PFAS, an acronym for “per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substance.” As reported by the Charleston City Paper in September, these chemicals are made to resist “grease, oil, water ...

There’s not only something in our water — but it’s in our fish, too, according to recent data reported by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

The state agency from July 2022 to June 2023 collected tissue samples from blue crabs, oysters and freshwater fish in water bodies across South Carolina to test for PFAS, an acronym for “per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substance.” As reported by the Charleston City Paper in September, these chemicals are made to resist “grease, oil, water and heat.” And these properties also render PFAS nearly indestructible, hence their colloquial name, “forever chemicals.”

In the Ashley River and Goose Creek Reservoir — the two sites where DHEC tested freshwater fish in the tri-county area — PFOS, one of the most harmful types of PFAS, averaged approximately 14,910 parts per trillion (ppt) in tissue samples of fish fillets. Eating one eight-ounce serving of fish at this level is the same as drinking 40 liters of water per month with a level of 90 PFOS ppt, according to a 2023 National Library of Medicine paper. That’s more than 22 times the greatest amount that should be ingested per month, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water proposed PFOS maximum contaminant level.

The DHEC numbers, however, don’t mean all fish tissue has hazardous concentrations of these chemicals: The 2023 paper also said “international sampling of fish has reported significantly lower levels of PFAS in farmed fish,” or what is generally sold at the grocery store. Rather, the data speak to the magnitude of PFAS contamination in Lowcountry fish and how they might affect people who rely on sustenance fishing from local waterways.

DHEC tissue state data from each of the three species varied widely based on waterbody and time of collection, sometimes without any correlation to distance from potential PFAS point sources. But according to Charleston Waterkeeper Andrew Wunderley, “it shows these chemicals are incredibly persistent” in Charleston’s “very dynamic estuary environment.” In other words, they’re not easy to get rid of, and they’re contaminating the entire ecosystem persistently.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Patricia Fair and her research team in 2012 conducted a study of PFAS in Charleston-area sediment which did identify several PFAS-heavy hotspots. Because these chemicals were unregulated, Fair told the City Paper, it was hard to pinpoint where the contamination might have been coming from.

That was over 10 years ago, but Fair said current information surrounding forever chemicals is still “lacking specifics” and taking a slow-moving path towards more regulation.

Noted DHEC spokesperson Laura Renwick: “There are currently no standards for PFAS that can be enforced; there are no national standards for these chemicals.”

But according to Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) senior associate attorney Carl Brzorad, the problem isn’t with government standards or regulation.

“The Clean Water Act sets forth a very strong regulatory framework that applies to PFAS, just like it applies to any other toxic chemical,” he said. The issue, Brzorad added, is that government agencies like DHEC just aren’t enforcing it.

“DHEC continues to encourage all regulated entities to proactively monitor for PFAS but can’t require monitoring except through a permit,” Renwick said. “On a case-by-case basis, DHEC may require monitoring for a specific activity or site in a permit if identified as necessary based on data.”

Brzorad broke this concept down even further: For industries to discharge these contaminants into local waterways, such as land application sludge users and National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit holders, “there’s got to be disclosure” and “treatment using existing technology” to remove them from the wastewater. But these facilities, Brzorad said, often are currently discharging PFAS directly into rivers without consequence, testing or regulation.

Additionally, U.S. Department of Defense sites, which tend also to be PFAS hotspots, have conducted groundwater testing, but the process of remediation is ongoing and for many, hasn’t even started, reported the Environmental Working Group this year.

“The adverse health effects from PFAS are non-specific,” said South Carolina Environmental Law Project attorney Ben Cunningham. They can include certain cancers, unhealthy birth weight and high cholesterol. And because these are often symptoms of other problems, PFAS contamination isn’t the first thing doctors are looking for, Cunningham added. What’s more, he said, no one is testing the concentration of PFAS in the bloodstream.

The absence of information about the detrimental effects of PFAS on human health is a part of what Wunderley called the United States’ “innocent until proven guilty” principle in which chemicals “can be developed and brought to market without any research about their health” or environmental impact. Fair added this approach created a widespread contamination crisis that was entirely preventable.

And unfortunately, the crisis, Cunningham said, “is going to be an issue for a while.”Companies like 3M and Dupont, which have reached $11 billion in court settlements over forever chemicals, have developed newer PFAS that they claim are safer to replace more harmful PFAS, but Wunderley said these chemicals are merely an attempt to tweak the chemistry while keeping the product. An Auburn University study found that the new, short-chain chemicals “may pose more risks” than known contaminants like PFOS. “It’s lucrative chemistry, and [these companies] fight hard to protect that,” Wunderley added.

“Once EPA establishes an MCL (maximum contaminant level) or other final criteria, DHEC will begin its process of incorporation of the MCL and/or final criteria into permits,” DHEC said in a statement. But the wait is crushing for many frustrated that the agency has been waiting for the EPA to set the stage on PFAS enforcement when a contamination problem is obvious.

Wunderley said DHEC has justified stalling because it doesn’t have the information to continue, but “there’s never a perfect dataset. … It’s just long beyond time to act.”

Accountability, Wunderley added, could include forcing “the cost of the contamination and pollution back upon the people that profited from it … supported by a strong regulatory program that protects against the contamination from happening in the first place.”

In the meantime, Cunningham advised Charlestonians to take precautionary measures to protect themselves and their families. For example, they could reduce sustenance fishing and follow the DHEC fish consumption advisory guidelines for mercury — DHEC does not have advisories yet for PFAS, only recommendations.

But Wunderly noted curbing fishing might not be feasible. He said it becomes an environmental justice issue when people need to fish to survive. He added that in the Lowcountry, some of the heaviest PFAS contamination is in water bodies in low-income areas. Wunderley also cautioned against asking what levels of PFAS humans can safely tolerate — this contamination, he said, should never have existed at all.

“There’s a chemical that 3M and DuPont manufactured and put into the consumer stream and is now in every single one of our bodies. I didn’t give Dupont or 3M permission to contaminate my body or the fish in my harbor or anything else. And so that’s where I think the analysis ought to start.”

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