New River PCBs are Subject of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Study in 2016-17; Draft TMDL Ready for Public Comment in May 2017; Final Public Meeting on TMDL Study Held May 10, 2017

This post updates previous posts from April 2016 and April 2017.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the New River in southwestern Virginia are the subject of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process that began in early April 2016.

The draft TMDL study for New River PCBs became available in May 2017; a link to the report is available at this DEQ Web site: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/PCBTMDLs/NewRiverTMDLPCB.aspxPublic comment on the draft will be accepted through June 9, 2017.

On May 10, 2017, the draft TMDL study was presented in a public meeting in Radford.  Information on the May 10 meeting is available at this Virginia Regulatory Town Hall link (link last checked May 11, 2017).  A Virginia Water Resources Research Center recording from the May 10 meeting is available at this link.  The recording (47 min./37 sec.) was intended to capture only the prepared remarks by Mark Richards, the DEQ staff person presenting the draft TMDL report at that meeting.  The posted audio deletes audience voices asking questions during the presentation and, for the most part, Mr. Richards’ responses to those questions.  Some of all of the visuals that were discussed during the May 10 presentation are available in the draft TMDL study (link noted above).

About 145 miles of the New, from Interstate 77 to the West Virginia line (along with several tributaries), have been under a Virginia Department of Health (VDH) fish-consumption advisory since 2004 (since 2001 for about 75 miles), when PCBs were found in fish-tissue samples.  An April 5, 2016, public meeting was held in Radford by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) to describe the known history of PCB contamination in the river and the TMDL study that aims to identify the current sources and loads of PCBs in the New.  Following a public comment period through May 3, 2016, the BSE Department and a DEQ technical advisory committee developed the New River PCB study that was released in draft form in May 2017.

The federal Clean Water Act requires that a TMDL study be done whenever the level of a pollutant in a water body regularly exceeds a state water-quality standard and, consequently, the water body is identified as “impaired.”  A TMDL study identifies sources of an impairment, allocates the contribution of each source to the overall impairment, and identifies reductions needed for the water body to fall within water-quality standards for the particular contaminant.  In Virginia, state law also requires development of TMDL implementation plan following the TMDL study.

According to the DEQ (“New River Watershed Study,” April 2016, available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Water/TMDL/PCB/NRPCBfactsheet.pdf), PCBs “are chemicals that were used in electrical transformers and other equipment until the late 1970s and can remain in the environment for decades. … Sources of PCBs include, but are not limited to, point-source dischargers including municipal stormwater discharges, stormwater runoff from areas of known contamination, atmospheric deposition, and existing contamination in river sediments.”

DEQ information about the New River PCB TMDL is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/PCBTMDLs/NewRiverTMDLPCB.aspx.

Other Sources:
Research could aid fight against PCBs in New River, Roanoke Times, 4/5/16.

Long hunt for source of PCBs in New River is to end this year
, Roanoke Times, 3/27/16.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Resources for PCB TMDLs,” online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/PCBTMDLs.aspx.

Virginia Department of Health, “Fish Consumption Advisories/New River Basin,” online at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/public-health-toxicology/fish-consumption-advisories/; and “Frequently Asked Questions about Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs),” online (as PDF) at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/fact-sheets-for-public-health/frequently-asked-questions-about-polychlorinated-biphenyls-pcbs/.

New River Rt 611 Wilderness Road Pulaski County Jun30 2013 USED Grouper 4-12-16

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