Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Area Water News Headlines Sampler for August 10-August 16, 2013: Fossil Whale, Bass Virus in Snakeheads, Increased Oyster Harvest, Illegal Sewage Dumping, Baltimore Treatment Plant Upgrade, Aug. 1933 Hurricane, and More

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of Virginia water-news stories from the period August 10-16, 2013.  The headlines are grouped by topics and—within those groups—from newest to oldest.  Explanatory notes have been added in brackets after the publication and date.  Unless otherwise noted, all places mentioned are in Virginia.  As of 8/16/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life
A Whale of a Find, WYPR (Baltimore Md.) 88.1 FM, 8/16/13.  In July 2013, an employee at Stratford Hall, the historic home of Robert E. Lee in Westmoreland County, found the fossil skull of a whale, estimated at 15 million years old, in a cliff beside the Potomac River, some 150 feet below the residence.  Stratford Hall officials enlisted the help of paleontologists from the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, to extract the skull (which they did in July) and the rest of the skeleton (which they are doing in August).  The skeleton is being kept at the Calvert Museum.  Cliffs at Stratford Hall line up—geographically and geologically—with cliffs in Calvert County that are popular sites for hunting fossils, such as sharks’ teeth.  Both areas were once covered by water when seas were higher thousands of years ago.

Largemouth Bass Virus Found in Northern Snakeheads in Virginia, U.S. Geological Survey News Release, 8/13/13.  In research published in late July 2013, U.S. Geological Survey scientists reported that they had found Largemouth Bass Virus in Northern Snakehead fish in two Potomac River tributaries in northern Virginia.  The virus previously has been found in other members of the sunfish family but had not before been found in Northern Snakeheads.

Study finds toxins in James River crabs, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/12/13.  As part of an ongoing three-year (2012-2014) study of algae in the James River, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) researchers found Blue Crabs in the tidal, freshwater James containing the microcystin toxin produced some a type of blue-green algae.  Researchers and state officials stated that the presence of the toxin does not represent a human health issue at this time, that they do not yet know if it is having an impact on Blue Crab populations, and that the issue merits further study.

Chesapeake Bay Clean Up/Restoration
Poll: ‘Striking’ support for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Daily Press, 8/14/13; and Huge Majority of Virginians Back Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan, Chesapeake Bay Foundation news release, 8/13/13.  On August 13, 2013, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released results of a July 21-24, 2013, telephone poll of 601 Virginians on their opinions about Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts.

‘Pulse release’ will raise James River levels, Lynchburg News & Advance, 8/11/13; and Corps of Engineers and commonwealth of Virginia announce Gathright Dam pulse release dates, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers news release, 5/24/13.  On August 13, 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a large amount of water into the Jackson River from the Gathright Dam (located in Alleghany County, north of Covington, and creating Lake Moomaw) in order to improve water-quality in the river by increasing dissolved oxygen and removing algae.  The “pulse release” is one of six scheduled by the Corps at Gathright between June and October 2013.

State: Oyster harvest may be the biggest in 25 years, Daily Press, 8/15/13; State’s oyster harvest hits highest level in 25 years, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/15/13.  On August 14, Virginia officials announced that preliminary results from the fall 2012-spring 2013 oyster season show a harvest of over 320,000 bushels, a 28-percent increase of the 250,000-bushel harvest in 2011-12 and compares to a harvest of only 23,000 bushels in 2001.  The increase is attributed by state officials primarily to oyster aquaculture.

Tighter regulations prove a boon for stormwater pipe industry, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 8/11/13.  Here’s a stormwater “snapshot” from Charlottesville, which instituted a stormwater-utility fee in 2013.

Waste Management and Energy
Waste-to-energy proposal in Stafford County sent back to square one, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/13/13. In an update on the issue of a proposed waste-to-energy facility at a Stafford County solid-waste landfill (previously included in headline post on 8/11/13): On August 13, 2013, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind the approval it granted in a June 4, 2013, vote to approve development of a lease for the $73-million project proposed by Energy Extraction Parnters LLC (EEP).  The board now plans to consider other options along with  EEP’s proposal.

Owner of Rocky Mount sewage service faces fresh counts of illegal waste disposal, Roanoke Times, 8/14/13.  As of mid-August, a Franklin County man who owns a septic-system service in Rocky Mount faces 32 misdemeanor and three felony charges for allegedly dumping sewage illegally at several sites in the county.

Wastewater treatment plant upsets residents, Petersburg Progress-Index, 8/14/13.  In a wastewater “snapshot” from Dinwiddie County: The Dinwiddie County Water Authority has applied for the a permit renewal that would allow it to operate a wastewater-treatment plant, leading to some local opposition that was voiced at an August 7, 2013, public hearing held by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  The Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice about the August 7 public hearing is available online at

Water Quality
Come on in. The water’s clear of bacteria and pollution, Virginian-Pilot, 8/12/13.  Here’s an introduction to Virginia’s process for sampling and testing water at beaches for levels of bacteria and for issuing swimming advisories if levels exceed allowable limits.

Outside of Virginia But in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Baltimore approves $263 million for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Baltimore Sun, 8/14/13; and Wastewater Treatment Improvement Is A Step Closer Toward A Cleaner Chesapeake Bay, CBS Baltimore (Md.) TV, 8/15/13.  On August 14, 2013, the City of Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved a $263-million contract for the first phase of constructing a nutrient-removal facility at the city’s Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, as part of efforts to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

80 Years Ago Storm Created Ocean City Inlet, The (Ocean City Md.) Dispatch, 8/13/13. Here’s an interesting look back at the impacts on Ocean City, Maryland, of the August 1933 Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane, which also seriously affected Virginia, including causing Norfolk’s lowest barometric pressure and highest tide recorded up to that time.  Information from the National Weather Service (Eastern Region Headquarters) on the impact of the hurricane on Virginia and North Carolina is available online at

Educators invited to join Maryland stream restoration focus group, Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, 8/16/13.  Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is recruiting the state’s public school teachers of math, science, and social studies to get their classes to take on monitoring and restoration projects at the stream nearest their school.

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