On September 19, 2012, several residents of Fairview Beach in King George County, Virginia, met for almost three hours with 16 state and local government agency staff members and local elected officials to discuss the recurring problem of excessive bacterial levels in the beach’s Potomac River swimming waters (see photo below). No clear source of the contamination is known, but the group agreed that one particular drain pipe should get further testing, particularly sample above and below the pipe. Testing by local residents around other areas, however, has also shown high bacteria levels. Some local mobile homes that remain on septic systems and a lack of knowledge about old underground pipes are others area of concern. The meeting was called by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regional office in Woodbridge. Beach closures or advisories have been posted at Fairview Beach frequently in recent years due to water-sample bacteria levels exceeding state water-quality standards.
Here’s some background on bacteria problems at Fairview Beach: In the2012 edition of Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Fairview Beach was the Virginia beach with the highest rate of samples exceeding state bacteria standards in 2011, at 33 percent. For comparison, in 2011 at 32 Virginia beaches (out of 47 monitored) all samples met bacterial standards (0 percent exceedance rate), while the exceedance rate was 20-30 percent at three beaches in Newport News (the highest percentages after Fairview Beach).
Downstream view of Potomac River at Fairview Beach, June 30, 2009. Photo by Alan Raflo.
Sources: River bacteria remains mystery, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 9/20/12; and NRDC report noted above, available online at http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/; the Virginia state summary is online at http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/va.asp?loc=Virginia.