A Sampler of Water-related Headlines for Virginia and Elsewhere for mid-June to mid-August 2014, covering Aquatic Habitats, Climate, Energy, Hazardous Waste Incidents, Land Use/Watershed Management, Waste Management, and Toledo Water Supply

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of water-news stories published in summer 2014 about Virginia, about nearby areas, or about topics that are otherwise relevant to Virginia. The items were collected between early June and mid-August 2014. 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 8/15/14, all headlines listed below had working hyperlinks to take you to the full article, but those links may or may not be working at later dates.

Aquatic Habitats, Organisms, and Systems

Governor McAuliffe Announces Virginia Oyster Harvests Continue to Climb, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 7/21/14. Virginia’s oyster harvest in 2013 was over 500,000 bushels, a 25-percent increase of 2012 and the largest harvest since 1987. The total includes wild oysters harvested from public grounds as well as oysters raised in private operations.

Bacteria plagues Fairview Beach, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 7/17/14. In late July, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) presented the draft of a watershed-improvement plan to address chronic bacterial impairments at Fairview Beach on the Potomac River in King George County, Va.

Virginia acts to cut female blue crab harvest, Bay Journal, 6/24/14; and VMRC approves 10 percent reduction in blue crab harvest, Daily Press, 6/24/14. In June 2014, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) voted to cut the allowable harvest of female Blue Crabs by 10 percent from July 2014 to July 2015. The move came after the annual winter dredge survey of Blue Crabs in April 2014 showed decreases in the overall Blue Crab population and in the female population.

Lawmakers urge court to block Chesapeake cleanup, Associated Press, as published by Delaware Online, 6/24/14. In June 2014, 39 members of Congress, including Virginia’s Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-6th), added their support to the lawsuit filed in 2011 by the American Farm Bureau Federation (and other plaintiffs) challenging the legitimacy of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution-reduction plan, published by the U.S. EPA in 2010. The suit is in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia; the plaintiffs are appealing a September 2013 district court ruling in favor of the EPA.   Links to key legal documents are available from the Farm Bureau’s Web site at http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=legal.recentDocket&id=51. For more on this topic, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Lawsuit by Farm Bureau and Others Against EPA Over Chesapeake Bay TMDL in Federal Appeals Court as of April 2014 (last updated 5/14/14).

Climate

Governor McAuliffe Signs Executive Order Convening Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 7/1/14. On July 1, 2014, Virginia Gov. Terry McCauliffe signed Executive Order 19, which re-convened the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission. The Commission is to review, update, and prioritize the recommendations of the 2008 Virginia Climate Change Action Plan (available online at http://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate/state/state-examples/action-plans.html#va).  The group is to issue a report by June 30, 2015.

Sea-level rise conference sees urgency and hope, Daily Press, 6/30/14. The current prediction that sea level in the Hampton Roads area may rise about a foot by 2044 was a main focus of a June 30, 2014, sea-level rise forum in Norfolk organized by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.

Energy

Virginia Agencies to Coordinate Review of Potential Permits for Oil and Gas Drilling, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/13/14; and Drilling company official says no rush on fracking; Regional fracking discussion set Sep. 3, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/9/14. In August 2014, the Virginia departments of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) and of Environmental Quality (DEQ) signed a memorandum of agreement regarding coordination of environmental reviews of any future proposals for oil or natural gas drilling in Virginia’s Coastal Plain region. The memorandum of agreement is available online at http://1.usa.gov/1urLult. According to the governor’s office’s news release, “the agreement will help the agencies and the public address the distinctiveness and complexity of the Coastal Plain aquifer system, including the Potomac Aquifer, which supplies water for about half of Virginia’s population for drinking, agricultural use and industrial use.” The agency’s agreement came as much public attention in eastern Virginia is focused on natural-gas leases that the Shore Exploration and Production Corporation of Texas has acquired on over 84,000 acres the Taylorsville basin, a shale formation underlying parts of the counties of Caroline, Essex, King George, King and Queen, and Westmoreland. Virginia has also convened (starting in June 2014) a Gas and Oil Regulatory Advisory Panel to assist DMME in its regulation of practices and ingredients used in gas and oil well stimulation and completion, including “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) and horizontal drilling.  More information about this proposed regulatory action is available online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewAction.cfm?actionid=4117 and http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewStage.cfm?stageid=6829 (see, particularly, the “Agency Statement” PDF at the latter link). The DMME’s main Web site for Virginia gas and oil regulations is http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/LawsRegs.shtml#gasoil.

Natural gas pipeline plan riles Floyd County, Roanoke Times, 8/14/14; Large crowd on hand for Nelson pipeline meeting; Spectra project on hold, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 8/12/14. Proposed pipelines for natural gas also received much attention in Virginia in summer 2014. In June, EQT Corporation of Pennsylvania and NextEra Energy of Florida announced a proposed pipeline from West Virginia to Pittsylvania County; Dominion Resources is proposing the “Southeast Reliability Project” gas pipeline from West Virginia through central Virginia to North Carolina; and Spectra Energy of Houston had been evaluation a proposal for a pipeline from Pennsylvania through central Virginia to North Carolina, but in August the company confirmed that it has suspended work on that proposal for now.

Quantico hosts 2nd Annual Environmental Summit, U.S. Marine Corps/Quantico News Release, 7/25/14. On July 17, 2014, the Quantico Marine Base in Fauquier, Prince William, and Stafford counties held its second annual Environment and Energy Summit to discuss the base’s various programs and efforts on energy conservation and efficiency. ((For another Quantico item, please “Waste Management” above.)

Oil and gas exploration off Va. coast a step closer, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/19/14. On July 18, 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it will begin accepting applications for permits for surveys for oil and gas resources in federal offshore waters from Delaware Bay to Florida.

Land Use/Watershed Management

Public can comment on bridge, Tidewater News, 7/26/14. Through August 25, 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was accepting public comments on a proposed new bridge over the Nottoway River in Southampton County. The new structure would replace a 1920s-era bridge assessed as “structurally deficient” by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Chesterfield paper plant: No ‘rotten egg’ smell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/19/14; and Plant offers new market for farmers, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/19/14. On June 18, 2014, Tranlin, Inc., based in China, announced plans to spend $2 billion to open a paper-making factory in Chesterfield County.  The raw materials for the plant are to be corn stalks, wheat stalks, and other agriculture field waste from Virginia and neighboring states. The proposed plant would withdraw and discharge an estimated 28 million gallons of water per day from the James River.

Bedford decreases setbacks for concentrated animal feeding regulations, Lynchburg News & Advance, 6/11/14. On June 9, 2014, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors voted to decrease the property-line setbacks required for concentrated beef, poultry, and swine operations.

Eagle Scout’s project benefits bird lovers, Roanoke Times, 6/12/14. Before graduating from high school in June 2014, Roanoke resident Niemann Pest built a bird-watching platform at the regional wastewater-treatment plant located in the city. The project was part of his work to become an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.

Feds give $102M in storm prevention to 11 states including Virginia, Associated Press, as published online by Roanoke Times, 6/16/14. In June 2014, the U.S. Department of Interior announced that 11 states, including Virginia, will share $102.7 million in grants under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Grant Program. Funded projects include restoration of wetlands, beaches, tidal buffers, streams, and flood plains. Four Virginia projects received grants.

Hazardous Materials Incidents

Discharge into Happy Creek kills over 2,000 fish, Northern Virginia Daily, 8/11/14. On August 8, 2014, an unpermitted dumping of materials at a car wash in Front Royal (Warren County) resulted in fish kill in Happy Creek, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.

Hazmat teams respond to runoff of paint from roof of shopping center, Bristol Herald-Courier, 8/8/14. Hazardous-materials teams were apparently able to prevent paint washed from a roof during an August 8, 2014, rainstorm from reaching a nearby stream.

Roanoke Chemical Distributor Ordered to Pay $612,339 for Hazardous Waste Storage Violations, U.S. EPA News Release, 6/24/14. On June 24, 2014, the U.S. EPA announced that an administrative court judge had ordered the owner and operator of the Chem-Solv facility in Roanoke to pay a $612,339 penalty for violations of regulations on storage of hazardous waste, as required under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Roanoke Co. residents near wreck cautious about wells, Roanoke Times, 6/21/14; Officials test nearby wells after tanker crash, Roanoke Times, 6/12/14. In June 2014, a tanker-truck crash in Roanoke County resulted in a spill of about 4,400 gallons of embalming fluid. For at least two weeks, some nearby residents were cautioned against using their residential wells, pending results of testing.

Investigation yields no conclusion about source of sewer grease, Bristol Herald-Courier, 7/1/14; BVU given notice of violation for Little Creek spill, Bristol Herald Courier, 6/4/14. In June 2014, Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU) received a notice of violation from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for grease build-ups in the city’s sewer lines that have led to at least two manhole overflows, including one in April 2014 that resulted in a kill of about 3000 fish in a city stream.

Waste Management

Quantico cleanup plan proposed, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/8/14. In June 2014, the Quantico Marine Base in Fauquier, Prince William, and Stafford counties put out for public comment its plan for a fuel-contaminated area along the Potomac River. The area is one of several being done at the base under the federal Superfund law (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act). (For another Quantico item, please see “Energy” above.)

Water Supply Incident in Toledo, Ohio–Out of Virginia, But Connected to Conditions in the Commonwealth

Like Lake Erie, the tidal James River is afflicted with toxic algae, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/11/14; and Toledo area weathered water crisis with kindness, creativity, patience, Toledo [Ohio] Blade, 8/10/14. Starting August 2, 2014, about 500,000 in the area of Toledo, Ohio, were instructed not to drink public water because the city had detected the algae-produced toxin microcystin above recommended levels in Lake Eire. The plant nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, animal waste, and other sources contribute to excessive algae growth in Lake Eire, as in many other U.S. lakes and rivers. In Virginia, similar algae in the tidal James River also can produce the microcystin toxin, but the algae and their products normally are mixed by currents and large outbreaks normally occur downstream of any public drinking-water intakes. Excessive algae growth and its consequences are, however, a serious and chronic aquatic-habitat issue in the James, the Chesapeake Bay, and other nutrient-enriched water bodies in Virginia.

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