Virginia Water News Headlines Sampler for October 9–17, 2013: Bay Grasses, Coal Ash Uses, Supreme Court Review of EPA Carbon Emissions Regulations, Blue Crabs, LID in Lexington, and Wastewater Snapshot from Dinwiddie County

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of water-news stories in Virginia, in nearby areas, or otherwise elated to Virginia, from the period October 9-17, 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 10/18/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life and Habitats
Bay gets big boost from tiny seed pods, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 10/10/13.  An approximately two-week period in late September and early October is the time of year for harvest of Wild Celery seed pods by volunteers participating in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) “Grasses for the Masses” program.  Wild Celery is one of several plants–collectively called submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) or “Bay grasses”—that are important for water quality and aquatic-life habitat in the Bay.  In the CBF program, volunteers plant and tend grass seeds for 10 to 12 weeks, then gather the seed pods for eventual transplant to the James and Potomac rivers.

Coal and Water
Report: Chesapeake fly-ash site safe for some housing, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 10/9/13; and Knee-deep in coal ash: Is it really hazardous?, Chesterfield Observer, 10/9/13.  The City of Chesapeake and Chesterfield County are among Virginia localities currently participating in a long-running debate of the costs vs. benefits of different uses for coal-combustion by-products, commonly referred to as coal ash or coal fly-ash.  In Chesapeake, ash was buried in the 1990s on a site now being considered for the proposed Campostella Square low-income housing development; on October 8, a consultant told the Chesapeake City Council that remediation of the site to allow residential housing would cost millions of dollars, although remediation for non-residential use would be less costly.   Meanwhile, in Chesterfield County, citizens have raised concerns since February 2013 about placement and use of coal ash in solid-waste facilities.  Coal ash contains various toxic metals, but under Virginia law, various uses of the material are allowed without the material being subject to regular Virginia solid-waste management regulations; Virginia Administrative Code section 9 VAC 20-81-95 describes allowable exemptions for fossil fuel combustion by-products (paragraph C.7.h, lists the allowable beneficial uses).  Virginia law follows federal law, which does not classify coal ash as a hazardous substance; the U.S. EPA has been considering for several years, however, whether coal ash should be classified as hazardous waste.

Energy and Climate
Supreme Court will review EPAs authority to regulate power-plant and factory emissions, Washington Post, 10/15/13.  On October 15, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear several challenges to the U.S. EPA’s regulation of emissions of carbon dioxide (and other so-called “greenhouse gases”) from power-generating plants and other stationary sources.  The petitions accepted by the Court allege that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act recognized by the Court in its 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision.  That decision applied to automobile emissions, and the petitions accepted for hearing by the court challenge the EPA’s extension of regulation to stationary sources.

Virginia Considers Resuming Dredging for Female Crabs, Bay Daily, 10/16/13.  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is scheduled to vote at its October 22, 2013, meeting on whether to re-open a winter dredging season on Blue Crabs in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay waters.  Winter dredging has been banned by Virginia since 2008 as part of efforts to improve Blue Crab populations (dredging for crabs is illegal in Maryland).  The proposed action would not increase the overall allowable harvest of Blue Crabs, because quotas for harvesting by other methods (crab pots) would be reduced, according to the VMRC’s spokesman.

Stormwater Management
Housing project marries low-income and low-impact development, Bay Journal, 10/17/13. A four-acre, 24-lot development of housing for low-income residents in Lexington is being designed with “low-impact development” (LID) features to reduce water-consumption and stormwater runoff.

State renews permit, Petersburg Progress-Index, 10/14/13.  In early October 2013, the Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) approved the renewal of a permit for the Dinwiddie County Water Authority to discharge up to four million gallons per day of wastewater into Hatcher Creek (a Chowan River/Albemarle Sound tributary), if the county eventually builds a wastewater-treatment facility on the stream.  The authority would have to secure several other permits to begin construction on a facility.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality received about 100 comments from citizens expressing concerns about the permit renewal.

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