Category Archives: Aquatic Life

Spills Affecting Water in Virginia – Cumulative List of Incidents Starting May 2017; Latest: August 2017 Announcement of Fine for October 2016 Underground Fuel Leak in City of Roanoke

In this post, the Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts brief accounts and links to news articles about spills affecting surface water or groundwater in Virginia.  Items are listed from most recent (at top) to oldest (at bottom).  All hyperlinks to news accounts were functional at the time posted  here, but there is no guarantee that they still are whenever you’re reading this.

The number of incidents listed as of August 17, 2017 is 14.  A number of older incidents have yet to be added to this post, so please check back if you’re interested in that.

Frequently used abbreviations:
DEQ = Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

August 2017 in City of Roanoke – $19,425 fine announced for Conny Oil Inc., part of a July 12, 2017, consent agreement between the company and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), for an underground leak gasoline leak (which reached the storm sewer system and caused home evacuations) discovered on October 8, 2017, at the Grandin Road BP in the City of Roanoke.  Sources:  Fuel company cited for October gas leak in southwest Roanoke, Roanoke Times, 8/7/17; Virginia DEQ, “Public Notices,” online at

July 29, 3017 in Botetourt County – Spill of about 165 gallons of Termix 5301—a type of surfactant added to herbicides and other pesticides before application, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)—into a tributary of Tinker Creek, in the Roanoke River watershed, on the Crop Production Services facility at Cloverdale in Botetourt County (just north of the Roanoke County line and the City of Roanoke), affecting approximately 8 miles Tinker Creek and resulting in a fish kill estimated at over 40,000, according to the DEQ.  The DEQ’s July 31 news release asserted the following about long-term impacts: “Where the material was present in the water, the stream exhibited a cloudy appearance and moderate to heavy white foam.  DEQ checked the stream at more than a dozen locations, from near the mouth at the Roanoke River, to above the confluence with the impacted tributary at Route 11 in Cloverdale.  At almost all locations, the appearance of the stream had returned to normal for this time of year.  Once the material is diluted and flushed downstream, no long-term impacts to the stream are anticipated.  It ultimately may take several years to return to normal, but the stream will recover and aquatic life will repopulate the affected areas.”  DEQ spokesperson Bill Hayden was quoted on August 2, 2017, by The Roanoke Times as saying that the fish kill “may be one of the biggest…in Virginia history,” and that recovery of the stream’s bottom dwelling aquatic organisms could take years.  A recreation advisory on Tinker Creek was lifted on August 11.  Sources: Tinker Creek recreation advisory lifted nearly 2 weeks after chemical spill, Roanoke Times, 8/11/17.  DEQ: Tinker Creek safe to swim in, no herbicide detected in recent tests, WSET Lynchburg, 8/11/17.  Update on status of Tinker Creek, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 8/4/17.  Fish kill extended 8 miles downstream of Cloverdale chemical spill, state says, Roanoke Times, 8/4/17.  Deputies say vandals may have caused Tinker Creek chemical spill, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 8/2/17.  Recovery on Tinker Creek could take years after chemical spill caused massive fish kill, Roanoke Times, 8/2/17.  Tinker Creek fish kill: questions and answers, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, 7/31/17. Chemical spill on Tinker Creek caused by puncture to storage tank, DEQ officials say, Roanoke Times, 7/31/17.  Crews continue assessing damage from chemical spill into Tinker Creek, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 7/31/17.  Officials say police are investigating Tinker Creek chemical spill as a crime, WXFR TV-Roanoke, 7/31/17.  Sudsy water, fish kills in Tinker Creek after confirmed chemical spill, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 7/31/17.  Herbicide spill in Tinker Creek stretches 8 to 10 miles, public still warned to stay out of creek, Roanoke Times, 7/30/17.  Chemical spill impact on well water and enviornment, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 7/30/17.
Here is the text of an August 4, 2017, news release from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the Tinker Creek spill:
“RICHMOND, VA. — The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have updated the information available on the status of Tinker Creek in Botetourt County following a fish kill on July 29.
— The agencies are continuing their recommendation that people stay away from Tinker Creek, from just west of Route 11/Lee Highway, across from Southern States Cooperative in Cloverdale, downstream to the mouth of Tinker Creek at the Roanoke River.
— Water test results have been analyzed and show a very low amount of the chemical Termix 5301 in the creek. This amount of the chemical is not considered harmful.
— Additional water samples will be collected Monday, August 7, and results are expected later in the week. A decision will be made then as to whether the advisory on Tinker Creek should remain.
— DEQ has completed its count of fish that died as a result of the spill. The total is 40,198, which includes sunfish, rock bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, darters, multiple species of minnow, margined madtoms, bullhead catfish and suckers. Though there have been a few larger fish kills in Virginia, this is considered a significant incident.
— The company responsible for the spill, Crop Production Services, has continued to cooperate fully with DEQ and has taken numerous actions to address the fish kill.”

June 2017 in Franklin County –  Announcement of a $4550 fine by the Virginia DEQ on Burnt Chimney Dairy LLC for a March 2016 spill of 13,500 gallons of manure onto the ground in Franklin County, some of which reached an unnamed tributary to Gills Creek, which in turn is a Roanoke River tributary.  Source:  Franklin County dairy farm cited for manure spill, Roanoke Times, 6/29/17.

May 10-11, 2017, in Virginia Beach – Spill of 94,000 gallons of jet fuel at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.  For more on this incident, please see this Water Central News Grouper post of May 17, 2017.

May 8, 2017, in Harrisonburg – Derailment of five rail cars carrying corn, some of which reached Blacks Run, in the Shenandoah River watershed.  Source:  Long cleanup ahead after train derails in downtown Harrisonburg, WHSV TV-Harrisonburg, Va., 5/8/17.

Late April 2017 in Weber City (Scott County) – Sewage spill from a pipe damaged by a collapsed crane at a bridge-construction site.  Source: UPDATE: No contact advisory on Holston River lifted following sewage spill, WCYB TV-Bristol, 5/15/17.

April 11, 2017, in Roanoke County – Spill of about 400 gallons of asphalt from a tanker truck on North Barrens Road in Roanoke County.  Source: No environmental damage from asphalt spill in Roanoke County, DEQ says, Roanoke Times, 4/12/17.

March 2017/September 2015 in Franklin County – March 2017 announcement of a consent order and $3250 fine by the Department of Environmental Quality for a September 2015 manure spill into Maggodee Creek (Roanoke River basin) in Franklin County.  Source: Franklin County dairy farm cited for manure spill, Roanoke Times, 3/30/17.

February 20, 2017, in Gloucester County – Diesel fuel spill from a sunken boat into the Perrin River (a Chesapeake Bay tributary in Gloucester County).  Source: About $50,000 spent to clean up Perrin River fuel spill, Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal, 3/15/17.

January 2017 in City of Fredericksburg – January 2017 consent agreement regarding October 2015, December 2015, and February 2016 wastewater spills by City of Fredericksburg.  City to Pay State Fine for Sewage Spills, Fredericksburg Today, 1/25/17.

November 2016 in Washington, D.C., metropolitan area – Appearance of oily sheen on Potomac River in D.C. metropolitan region.  D.C. area water utilities keep an eye on oily sheen on Potomac River, Washington Post, 11/30/16; EPA says oil plume on Potomac River came from power plant in Maryland, Washington Post, 12/6/16.

October 24, 2016, in Fluvanna County – Discovery by Rivanna Conservation Alliance volunteer monitors of sewage-pipe leak into Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County.  Aqua Virginia, a private company providing water and sewer service to the area, fixed the leak the same day.  Sewage pipe could have been leaking into Lake Monticello for months, group says, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/27/16.  Questions remain on full impact of Lake Monticello sewage spill, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/28/16.  Water officials seek more info on Lake Monticello sewer leak, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/31/16.  Lake water ‘safe’ after sewage leak, Fluvanna Review, 10/31/16.

October 3, 2016, in Stafford County – Discovery of a sewage-line break that was causing a spill of wastewater into Claiborne Run, a Rappahannock River tributary near the historic Port of Falmouth Park in Stafford County. Another sewage spill closes Historic Port of Falmouth in Stafford, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 10/5/16.

August 23, 2016, in City of Richmond – Spill of about 7000 gallons of fuel oil and gasoline from a tanker truck that overturned on I-95 near the James River at Richmond; about 4000 gallons apparently reached the James via stormwater drains.  Fuel spill affects James River at Richmond Deep Water Terminal, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 8/24/16; DEQ working to clean 4,000 gallons of fuel spilled in James River in truck crash, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/24/16.



On Virginia Water Radio for 7-3-17: For Independence Day, a Bald Eagle Exploration

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of July 3, 2017, is “Bald Eagle.”  The 3 min./47 sec. episode, available online at, celebrates Independence Day with an exploration our national bird in sound, words, and music.  The episode features “Bald Eagle of Virginia,” composed on June 29, 2017, by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg (

375 Photo Bald Eagle USFWSBald Eagle in flight.  Photo by Todd Harless, made available for public use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library, online at, accessed 6-29-17.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is  Have a listen or two!

Analysis of Kepone Levels in James River Fish in 2016 Issued by VIMS Scientists in June 2017

In June 2017, scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) issued their latest report on kepone levels in fish in the James River.  The VIMS researchers found that 35 percent of tissue samples from Striped Bass and White Perch taken in 2016 contained no detectable kepone, while 65 percent still contain detectable levels of the chemical.  Kepone in the James is a legacy of illegal discharges by the former Allied Chemical operation at Hopewell, which resulted in a $13.2 million settlement in 1977.

VIMS researchers sampled James River fish for kepone levels annually from 1975 to 2000, then again in 2002, 2004, 2009, and 2016.  Regarding the results from 2016, report co-author James Unger stated, “Kepone in fish tissues has continued to decline exponentially since 1980 and should be near or below the detection limit in all samples by 2020 or 2025 if current trends continue.”

Source: VIMS report offers mixed news on James River Kepone, William & Mary  News, 6/12/17.

Some Fish School, But Humans Interested in Aquaculture Can GO to “Fish School” at Virginia State University, July 5-7, 2017

On July 5-7, 2017, in Petersburg, Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University holds its annual  Fish School.  The event, emphasizing using aquatic resources to provide local food, offers educational sessions on growing fish or shellfish for a hobby or as a commercial enterprise.  Participants may register for single days or for the whole event.

Topics in 2017 include the following:
Day 1 – Species and Marketing, Aquaculture Nutrition, Water Quality and Fish Health; Day 2 – Farm Pond Management, Freshwater Shrimp, Cage Culture;
Day 3 – Greenhouse Production Systems/Aquaponics, Sampling fish populations, Over-Wintering Solar Power Energy Unit, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems.

Each day will have hands-on activities.

For more information, visit; or contact Brian Nerrie, VSU aquaculture extension specialist, at (804) 524-5903 or

On Virginia Water Radio for 6-5-17: Herp Blitz, by the Virginia Herpetological Society

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of June 5, 2017, is “Amphibians and Reptiles are the Stars of Herp Blitz.”  The 3 min./56 sec. episode, available online at, focuses on the “herp”-finding work of the Virginia Herpetological Society, including the 2017 “Herp Blitz,” June 10-11 in Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area in Washington County  (the Society’s information on the 2017 Herp Blitz is online at

Logo of the Virginia Herpetological Society, accessed at the Society’s Web site,

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is  Have a listen or two!

Chesapeake Bay Report Card from University of Maryland for 2016 Released May 8, 2017

On May 8, 2017, the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science released its annual “Chesapeake Bay Report Card” on the status of biology and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, showing that conditions in 2016 were better than they had been in most years since 1986.  This year’s report had an overall “grade” of 54%, rated a C (“moderately healthy”), compared to 53% for 2015 data, 50% for 2014 data, and 45% for 2013 data.

The Center analyzes data on five chemical or physical indicators and five biological indicators, assessing how close (on a percentage basis) the indicators are to reaching a set of established goals, in response to pollution-reducing and habitat-improving actions.  The indicators are as follows: dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, chlorophyll, water clarity, aquatic “grasses” (submerged aquatic plants), benthic (bottom-dwelling) community, Blue Crabs, Bay anchovy, and Striped Bass.  Only the first seven are included in the Overall Health Index; the data on Blue Crabs, Bay anchovy, and Striped Bass are not part of the overall score.  From 2015 to 2016, scores improved or remained steady for all but two of the indicators, nitrogen and the benthic community.

An image showing the grades and trends for 15 Bay regions is shown below.

Bay report card

Graph of the report card scores and trends in data from 2016 in 15 Chesapeake Bay regions.  Image from Chesapeake Bay Report Card Shows Steady Recovery, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science News Release, 5/8/17.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, “Chesapeake Bay Report Card,” online at (as of 5/31/17).

Chesapeake Bay Report Card Shows Steady Recovery, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science News Release, 5/8/17, online at (as of 5/31/17).

For Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts previous University of Maryland Bay report cards and on other reports of Chesapeake Bay conditions, please see this link:

For an audio take on another Bay “report card”—the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Bay Barometer”—have a listen to Virginia Water Radio Episode 305 (2-29-16) (3 min./49 sec.).

Chesapeake Bay Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Increased Eight Percent in 2016, According to Bay Program and VIMS Annual Survey Results Released in April 2017

In late April 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) reported that the acreage of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) in the Bay (also called “underwater grasses” or “Bay grasses”) reached 97,433 acres in 2016, an increase of eight percent from 2015.  This continued a string of annual increases since 2012; for example, the increase from 2014 to 2015 was 21 percent.

The 2016 Baywide coverage of SAVs was the largest in the history of the annual aerial survey, which began in 1984.

According to the Bay Program’s news release, “Experts attribute the rise in underwater grass abundance to a strong increase in the tidal freshwater and moderately salty regions of the Bay, with Widgeon Grass in particular expanding in the latter region.  However, because widgeon grass is a “boom and bust” species—its abundance can rise and fall from year to year—a widgeon-dominant spike is not guaranteed to persist in future seasons.”

SAV chart

Chart of Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) from 1984 to 2016, based on the annual aerial survey by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  Graph from More than 97,000 acres of underwater grasses recorded in Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News, 4/27/17.

More than 97,000 acres of underwater grasses recorded in Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News, 4/27/17.
Survey: another good year for Bay’s underwater grasses, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 4/26/17.

Some news accounts on the 2017 survey:
Underwater grasses up 8%; acreage is highest in decades, Bay Journal, 4/27/17.
VIMS: Chesapeake Bay sees another record year in underwater grass abundance, Daily Press, 4/27/17.

For more information on Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation:
Chesapeake Bay Program/Chesapeake STAT, “Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV),” online at (as of 5/25/17).

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “SAV in Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Bays,” online at (as of 5/25/17).

VIMS, “SAV Coverage in Chesapeake Bay 2016,” online at (as of 5/25/17).  This site has interactive charts on Bay SAV by salinity zone in 2016.