Two river spills were the top water-news stories in Virginia in late winter and early spring 2014: the aftermath of the February 2, 2014 spill of coal ash in to Dan River upstream of Danville; and the April 30, 2014, spill of oil into the James River after a train derailment in Lynchburg. But other interesting and important water-resources developments also made the news in recent weeks. Following are headlines and notes for a selection of water-news stories from the period March 28—May 9, 2014, that occurred in Virginia, occurred in nearby areas, or are otherwise relavant to Virginia. 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 5/8/14, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.
Pollution is substantially worse in minority neighborhoods across the U.S., Washington Post, 4/15/14. – An April 2014 research report by scientists at the University of Minnesota documents higher levels of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide correlated to socioeconomic status. (Nitrogen dioxide is linked to human respiratory illness as well as being a contributor to the water-resources issues of acid precipitation and nutrient enrichment, such as in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.) The article is “National Patterns in Environmental Injustice and Inequality: Outdoor NO2 Air Pollution in the United States,” by L.P. Clark et al., PLOS One, April 15 2014.
Federal appeals court says EPA can force power plants to cut mercury emissions, Washington Post, 4/15/14 – On April 15, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. EPA was within its authority in issuing the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) that limit emissions of hazardous air pollutants—including arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals—from electrical-generating plants. Basic information on the regulation is available from the EPA online at http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/basic.html.
USGCRP Releases National Climate Assessment, Launches New Website, U.S. Global Change Research Program News Release, 5/6/14. – On May 6, 2014, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (established in 1989) published the Third National Climate Assessment, documenting climate-change impacts in the United States nationally, by sector, and by region. It includes sections on the possible response strategies of support for decision-makers, adaptation, mitigation, research, and continued assessment. The 800-page report is available online at http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/downloads.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe puts state climate panel back in action, Roanoke Times, 4/8/14. – On April 8, 2014, at the annual Environment Virginia Symposium in Lexington, Gov. Terry McCauliffe stated that he believes Virginian’s need to accept that climate change impacts are being felt now, that humans are in part responsible, and that the Commonwealth needs to take action to respond to the present and predicted impacts, particularly to coastal communities.
Appalachian Power begins conversion, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/9/14; and AEP’s Clinch River power plant in Virginia to convert from coal to gas, Platts-McGraw Hill Financial, 5/31/13. – In early April 2014, Appalachian Power Company (a subsidiary of American Electric Power, or AEP) announced that it had begun the conversion from using coal as fuel to using natural for two, 240-megawatt-capacity, electrical-generating units at the Clinch River power plant in Russell County, Va. (A third unit is to be retired.) The work is expected to cost $65 million and be completed by 2016.
James River Coal pushed into bankruptcy, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/10/14; and James River Coal Company Files for Chapter 11 Reorganization to Restructure Balance Sheet and Continue Exploration of Strategic Alternatives, James River Coal Company News Release, 4/7/14. – On April 7, 2014, the James River Coal Company (headquartered in Richmond) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond. The company’s filing with the court cited a debt load of almost $465 million and reduced demand for coal as the factors forcing it to seek bankruptcy protection.
Water not tainted by Radford Army Ammunition Plant, study says, Roanoke Times, 4/23/14. – On April 23, 2014, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the federal Centers for Disease Control) released for a 30-day public-comment period the report of a year-long investigation into potential drinking-water contamination from chemicals at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, located along the New River in Montgomery County. The report concluded that public water systems in the area are not affected by releases from the plant and that private water-wells are “unlikely to be affected.” The 103-page report is available online at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/pha/RadfordArmyAmmunitionPlantSite/Radford%20Army%20Ammunition%20Plant_HC_PC_04-23-2014_508.pdf.
EPA to drill wells to investigate Sandston pollution, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/16/14; and Officials: only low levels of potentially hazard chemical found in Sandston, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/8/14 – As of April 2014, the U.S. EPA was continuing an investigation begun in January 2014 into whether any drinking-water supplies in part of the Henrico County community of Sandston were at risk of contamination by tetrachloroethene, an industrial chemical detected in a test well in the area.
Recreational water advisory lifted for Pigg River after 30,000 gallon manure spill, WDBJ-TV (Roanoke), 4/10/14; and Cow manure taints river in Franklin County, Roanoke Times, 4/4/14. – On April 3, 2014, an estimated 30,000 gallons of water from a cattle-manure storage lagoon spilled into a tributary of the Pigg River (Roanoke River watershed) in Franklin County, leading to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to advise people to avoid recreational use of the river. By April 10, the VDH had removed the advisory against recreational use.
EPA Settlement Protects Community Health and the Environment from Hazardous Waste Pollution in Petersburg, Va., U.S. EPA News Release, 5/8/14; and Company says hazardous waste issues at Petersburg plant were technical, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/10/14 – On May, 8, 2014, the U.S. EPA announced a settlement with Pre Con, Inc., a synthetic-fabric manufacturer in Petersburg, over alleged hazardous-waste violations in September 2012. The settlement includes a $101,375 penalty and requirements for the company to conduct regular monitoring of its hazardous-waste storage facilities.
Water authorities sign deal for new Moneta plant, Roanoke Times, 5/8/14; Regional water authority agrees to split cost of new SML water plant, Roanoke Times, 4/18/14; and Bedford water authority agrees to Moneta treatment plant deal, Lynchburg News & Advance, 4/15/14 – In May 2014, the Bedford Regional Water Authority and the Western Virginia Water Authority signed an agreement for joint development of a new, $14-million, water-treatment plant in Moneta on Smith Mountain Lake (a hydroelectric-power impoundment of the Roanoke River).
Governor McAuliffe Announces $4.75 Million Funding for Water Project in Buchanan County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 3/28/14 – On March 28, 2014, Va. Gov. Terry McCauliffe’s office announced a $4.75-million federal grant to continue a project to extend public-water service to the Hurley area of Buchanan County. The funds, to be administered by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, come from reclamation fees paid by industry to the abandoned mine-land grant program of the federal Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation; for more information on that program, see http://www.osmre.gov/programs/aml.shtm.)