Category Archives: Aquatic Life

On Virginia Water Radio for 12-11-17: A Teal Tale

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of December 11, 2017, is “The Green and Blue of Teal.”  The 4 min./9 sec. episode, available online at,  focuses on Virginia’s two species of teal duck, the Green-winged and Blue-winged.  The episode includes music by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg, Va., playing a tune attributed to Henry Reed, a traditional musician who settled in Giles County, Va.

BIRDS - Green-winged Teal Audubon USED Radio 398

Green-winged Teal painting originally published between 1827 and 1838 by John James Audubon in Birds of America (plate 228), as reprinted in 1985 by Abbeville Press, New York.  Photo taken December 10, 2017, from the reprint copy (no. 6 of 350 copies printed in 1985) owned by Special Collections of Virginia Tech Libraries.

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!

Spills Affecting Water in Virginia – Cumulative List of Incidents Starting February 2014; Latest: November 30, 2017, Sewage Spill from Broken Pipe at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach

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 the links still work whenever you’re reading this.

This list of incidents dates back to March 2015.  The number of incidents/situations listed as of November 30, 2017, is 39.

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

November 30, 2017, in City of Virginia Beach – Spill from a broken pipe of an estimated 60,000 gallons of sewage into the harbor at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-fort Story in Virginia Beach.  Little Creek is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.  Source: 60,000 gallons of sewage spill at Little Creek base, Navy says, Virginian-Pilot, 11/30/17.

November 18, 2017, in Wise County – Spill of an estimated 400 tons of coal into Pigeon Creek (a Powell River/Clinch River/Tennessee River tributary), following a derailment of 38 Norfolk Southern rail cars.  As of 4:15 p.m. on November 20, Norfolk-Southern stated that four cars had been removed from the stream and six cars removed from the stream bank; that the company was working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the incident; that absorbent booms, silt-fencing, and hay bales had been installed around the spilled coal; and that the company planned to use excavators and vacuum trucks to remove the spilled coal from the stream and streambank.  Sources: Norfolk Southern continues to clean up derailment scene, Bristol Herald Courier, 11/21/17.  38 Norfolk Southern Railroad cars derailed in Wise County, Bristol Herald Courier, 11/20/17.  Coal train derailment cleanup continues, Coalfield Progress, 11/20/17.  Coal spill cleanup underway, WCYB TV-Bristol, 11/20/17.

October 30, 2017, in Dinwiddie County – Spill of about 4000 gallons of a plasticizer chemical following a tractor-trailer overturning on U.S. Route 460 in Dinwiddie County.  Some of the material spread to drainage ditches lining the highway.  As of October 30, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was investigating the incident.  Source:  Tractor-trailer spill closes 460 West in Dinwiddie, Petersburg Progress-Index, 10/30/17.

October 2017/October 18, 2016, in City of Covington – CSX locomotive derailment resulting in spill of about 1700 gallons of diesel fuel into the Jackson River (about 425 gallons were recovered).  In October 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and CSX reached a proposed consent agreement including a $2125 fine and a requirement of monthly monitoring until no evidence of the fuel remains in the river.  Regulators cite CSX for fuel spill from train derailment in Covington, Roanoke Times, 11/1/17.

September 2017 in City of Alexandria – Spill of over 5000 gallons of gasoline after a pump failure at a Liberty gas station on King Street in Alexandria.  As of mid-October 2017, 400 gallons of the gasoline had been recovered; it was believed that none of the spills gasoline had reached surface waters, and the concern at the time was that the gasoline would contaminate nearby apartment buildings.  Source: Cleanup of Alexandria gasoline spill may take years, WRC TV-Washington, 10/17/17 (2 min./50 sec. video).

September 2017 in Roanoke County – Proposed consent agreement on September 12, 2017, between the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Nichols Transport, Inc., regarding a June 2014 tanker-truck spill of about 4500 gallons formaldehyde (to be used in embalming fluid) on Jae Valley Road near Windy Gap in Roanoke County.  The spill required some home and business evacuations and is identified as having contaminated one residential well, according to the proposed consent order (available online as a PDF at  The proposed order will undergo a public-comment period from 9/18/17 to 10/17/17.  DEQ current consent orders (those undergoing public comment periods) are available online at Trucking company agrees to cleanup plan for formaldehyde spill in Roanoke County, Roanoke Times, 9/19/17.

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, 2017, 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.  On October 4, 2017, the DEQ issued a notice of violation to Crop Production Services.  Sources: DEQ issues violation notice to company after Tinker Creek chemical spill, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 10/17/17; State issues violation notice in Tinker Creek chemical spill and fish kill, Roanoke Times, 10/16/17.  DEQ sends notice of violation over Tinker Creek chemical spill, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 10/10/17.  Chemical spill in Tinker Creek revealed a gap in regulation, Roanoke Times, 8/17/17.  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.  Source: 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.  Sources: 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.  Sources: 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.  Source: 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.  Sources: 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.

July 18-24, 2016, in Russell County
– Two petroleum spills in Russell County during the week of July 18-24, 2016; one of about 50 gallons of diesel fuel; the other of hydraulic oil, greater than 25 gallons but amount not identified in story.  Source: Everyday oil spills dangerous without quick intervention, WCYB-TV Bristol, Va., 7/25/16.

July 6, 2016, in Goochland County – Petroleum-pipeline leak near Tuckahoe Creek.  Sources: Henrico leaders carefully monitoring Goochland petroleum spill, RVANews, 7/8/16.  Petroleum leak reported along Goochland-Henrico line, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/7/16.

June 2016/April 2015 in Alleghany County – Consent agreement regarding an April 2015 sewer overflow of between 46,000 and 93,000 gallons per day over four days at the Alleghany County wastewater treatment plant (which discharges into Potts Creek, a Jackson River tributary).  Source: Alleghany County cited for wastewater overflows into creek, Roanoke Times, 6/2/16.

April 2016 in Fairfax County – Update on work to remediate MTBE from early 2000s leak at a service station in Great Falls (clean-up underway since 2014).  Sources: Great Falls: Eyesore Improves, Bank Coming, Great Falls Connection, 4/18/16; and Groundwater Cleanup Continues, Fairfax Connection, 8/25/15.

April 13, 2016, in Stafford County – Wastewater spill from an overturned tractor-trailer.  Source: Stafford road reopens after tractor-trailer overturned, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 4/13/16.

Jan. 22, 2016, in the City of Chesapeake – Spill of an estimated 75,000 gallons of jet fuel from the Kinder Morgan facility.  Sources: 60 ducks and geese covered in jet fuel from Chesapeake tank spill, Virginian-Pilot, 1/25/16; About 75,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked in Chesapeake tank spill, Virginian-Pilot, 1/26/15.

November 2015 in City of Roanoke – Consent agreement, including a $71,450 fine, for a February 15, 2014, spill by Steel Dynamics of about 10,000 gallons of fuel oil into Peters Creek (in the Roanoke River basin).  Source: Roanoke steel manufacturer agrees to pay fine for fuel oil spill, Roanoke Times, 11/30/15.

October 29, 2015, in Arlington County – Aviation-fuel spill at Reagan National Airport.  Source: Fuel spills into Potomac River at area south of Reagan National Airport, Washington Post, 10/30/15.

October 2015 leak in the City of Harrisonburg – Leak of about 7000 gallons of gasoline (first detected in October 2015) from an underground storage tank at a service station on Port Republic Road near Insterstate 81 in Harrisonburg.  Sources:  Harrisonburg Gas Station Leaks 7,000 Gallons of Fuel Into Ground, WHSV Harrisonburg, 11/13/15; Gas station owner fights accusation gas leak handled negligently, WHSV Harrisonburg, 1/29/16.

Sept. 28, 2015, in Goochland County – Spill of human waste from dump truck onto a road.  Source: Neighbors not happy after human waste spills out of dump truck in Goochland, WVTR TV-Richmond, 9/28/15.

September 21, 2015, in the City of Danville – Spill of motor oil at a car dealership.  Sources:  400 gallons of motor oil spilled; some got into the Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 9/21/15; Oil spill to have ‘minimal impact’ on the Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 9/23/15.

August 2015 in Fairfax County – Fine and correction plan for six sewage spills (over 600,000 gallons total) in 2013 and 2014 into Holmes Run, Lake Barcroft, and an unnamed tributary to Hunting Creek (all in the Potomac River basin), near Bailey’s Crossroads.  Source: After Massive Lake Barcroft Sewage Spill, Fairfax County Fails To Warn Residents, WAMU FM-Washington, 9/11/15.

August 2015 in Chesterfield County – Case of cleaning company disposing of cleaning chemicals improperly by pouring them onto the ground near schools.  Source: Potentially harmful chemicals dumped outside dozens of Chesterfield County schools, WRIC TV-Richmond, 9/4/15.

August 21, 2015, in Stafford County – Leak of 24,000 gallons of sewage into Falls Run, a Rappahannock River tributary.  The incident was one of nine between August 2014 and August 2015, resulting in spills of about 1.5 million gallons total in the Rappahannock and Potomac River watersheds from the county’s Aquia and Little Falls Run wastewater treatment plants.  Sources: Rappahannock River deemed safe two days after sewage spills into tributary, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/27/15.  Stafford wastewater system has leaked 1.5 million gallons of sewage in past year, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 9/3/15.

July-August 2015 in Dinwiddie County – Contamination of Stony Creek, in the Nottoway River/Chowan River watershed, by animal waste from a hog farm in Dinwiddie County; at least some of the pollutant was believed to be slurry material from a (now-closed) ethanol plant in the City of Hopewell.  Sources: The State of Stony Creek: Virginia Departments Continue Investigation into Waterway, Dinwiddie Monitor, 9/15/17.  Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors updates Stony Creek contamination, WTVR TV-Richmond, 9/1/15.  Officials find second site in Dinwiddie that is polluting waters, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/7/15.  Stony Creek pollution under investigation, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/31/15.

July 27, 2015, in Rockbridge County – Spill of about 5000 gallons of asphalt from a tanker truck into a tributary of Fords Run, in the Maury River/James River watershed.  Source: Cleanup of Rockbridge County asphalt spill likely to take weeks, Roanoke Times, 7/28/15.

March 2015 in the City of Hopewell – Spill into the Appomattox River (in the James River watershed) of about 600 gallons of diesel fuel by the Virginia American Water Company at its drinking water plant.  In August 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced a draft consent decree that included a fine of about $23,000.  Sources: Company to pay $23,000 after diesel fuel spill in Appomattox River, WTVR Richmond, 9/14/15; Water company fined for oil spill, Hopewell News, 9/18/15.

April 30, 2014, in City of Lynchburg
– CSX oil-transport train derailment along the James River, resulting in three tanker cars falling partially into the river, explosions followed by fire along the tracks and on the river, evacuations of about six blocks of Lynchburg’s downtown that afternoon, and an estimated 30,000 gallons of oil from one breached tanker car reaching the river (some of that oil caught fire).  For more on this incident, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

February 2, 2014, along the Dan River in North Carolina – Stormwater pipe collapse under a coal-ash storage basin at the Duke Energy’s Dan River Station in Eden, North Carolina, upstream of the Virginia Dan River section.  The Eden station was a coal-fired power plant that operated between 1949 and 2012.  The break spilled an estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash from the ash-storage basin into the Dan River.  For more on this incident, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

Oyster Information Sources for Virginia Oyster Month in November 2017

On November 6, 2017, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe designated November as Virginia Oyster Month.  The designation is intended to call attention to the role of the oyster industry in the Virginia’s current economy and the long heritage of oyster-based communities and cultural events.

Following is an excerpt from the Governor’s Office’s Nov. 6, 2017, news release, Governor McAuliffe Announces November as Virginia Oyster Month:
“’The Commonwealth boasts eight oyster regions, each producing oysters with unique flavors that are as distinct as the water in which they grow,’ [said Gov. McAuliffe]…[According to] Basil Gooden, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, ‘Last year, Virginia sold more than 40 million oysters, which resulted in an $18.5 million economic impact for the Commonwealth.’  [According to] Todd Haymore, Secretary of Commerce and Trade, ‘Agritourism accounts for $2.2 billion in economic impact in the Commonwealth, and the oyster industry is an important part of that story.  Our watermen and farmers are now offering educational tours and hands-on experiences, affording them an opportunity to tap into this multi-billion industry and expand their businesses.’  [According to] Molly Ward, Secretary of Natural Resources, ‘Oysters are a keystone species in the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal waters.  Oysters…filter waters and oyster reefs are a critical habitat for many aquatic species of fish, shellfish and other important organisms that ensure clean, productive and healthy waters.’  …In November 2015, Governor McAuliffe announced the launch of the Virginia Oyster Trail, a major tourism development project connecting travelers to Virginia oyster purveyors, raw bars and restaurants, artisans, and the watermen culture throughout Coastal Virginia, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore.  The Virginia Oyster Trail has been recognized by the U.S. Travel Association, and currently boasts more than 100 sites.  There are also many oyster-related festivals, special events, and attractions….  This year marked the 60th anniversary of the Urbanna Oyster Festival, which has also been recognized as the Official Oyster Festival of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

In recognition of Virginia Oyster Month, following are some information resources on oysters in Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay, and elsewhere.

Artisans Center of Virginia, “Virginia Oyster Trail,” online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Eastern Oyster,” online at

Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson, Life in the Chesapeake Bay, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2006.

University of Maryland Extension, “Oyster Aquaculture and Education Program, online at

Maryland Sea Grant, “Oysters,” online at; and “Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration,” online at

Clyde L. McKenzie, Jr., “History of Oystering in the United States and Canada, Featuring the Eight Greatest Oyster Estuaries,” Marine Fisheries Review, Vol. 58, No. 4, 1996, available online at

Roger I. E. Newell and Roger Mann, “Shellfish Aquaculture: Ecosystem Effects, Benthic-Pelagic Coupling and Potential for Nutrient Trading” (report prepared for the Virginia secretary of natural resources), June 21, 2012, available online from the Chesapeake Bay Program at

Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, “Delaware Bay Oysters,” online at

Patricia Samford, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum/Maryland State Museum of Archeology, “Oyster Wars,” 7/9/13, online at

Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, “Crassostrea virginica/Eastern Oyster,” online at

Andrew David Thayer, Mud, Shuck, and Spat, by in Hakai Magazine (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 3/15/16.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “Oysters @ VIMS,” online at

Virginia Marine Resources Commission/Conservation and Replenishment Department, online at (offers several oyster-related links).

Virginia Tourism Corporation, “Virginia Oysters,” online at

World Oyster Society, online at

And for two audio takes on oysters, nitrogen, and the Chesapeake Bay, have a listen to Virginia Water Radio Episode 279, 8/24/15 (4 min./23 sec.) and Episode 280, 9/7/15 (4 min./41 sec.).

James River Association Issues 2017 “State of the James” Report in October 2017

On October 26, 2017, the James River Association (JRA) released its latest “State of the James” biennial report on the James River.  The report gave the river a cumulative score of 62 out of 100, rating a “B-.”  The cumulative score includes several factors that receive individual scores; the scores represent the percentage achieved toward numeric goals for each factor.  The 2017 score was an increase of 10 points since the first report in 2007 and of 3 points since the 2015 report.

The reports for 2017 and those for previous years are online at, as of 10/27/17; or contact the JRA at 4833 Old Main Street, 4th Floor, Richmond, VA 23231; (804) 788-8811;

Below is the list of all the factors rated in 2017, with the 2017 scores and whether the rating indicated improvement or deterioration since 2015.

Bald Eagle Breeding Pairs = 100% (no change)
Striped Bass (Rockfish) Spawning Index = 59% (no change)
Oyster Abundance = 47% (no change)
Smallmouth Bass Abundance = 93 (improvement)
American Shad Abundance = 11% (improvement)
Brook Trout Ragne = 74% (improvement)

Underwater Grasses Abundance = 26% (deterioration)
Riverine Forest Cover = 94% (improvement)
Stream Condition Index = 59% (improvement)
Tidal Water Quality (algae, dissolved oxygen, and water clarity) = 62% (improvement)
Vegetated Stream Buffer Restoration = 32% (improvement)

Agricultural Pollution Controls = 48% (improvement)
Bacteria Reduction = 49% (not in 2015 report)
Sediment Pollution Reduction = 46% (improvement)
Nitrogen Pollution Reduction = 52% (deterioration)
Phosphorus Pollution Reduction = 77% (deterioriation)
Stormwater Pollution Controls = 41% (improvement)
Wastewater Pollution Reduction = 118% (improvement)

Land  Protection = 88% (improvement)

Additional Source:
James River Health Improves 10 Points in 10 Years, James River Association News Release, 10/26/17.

News media accounts on the 2017 State of the James report:
James River health improving overall, but more work needed, report says, Daily Press, 10/26/17.
James River health grade improves but more work to do, WVTF FM-Blacksburg, 10/26/17.
From a C to a B-minus in a decade, James River water quality remains a work in progress, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/27/17.
After decades of progress, James River earns a B- in latest report, Bay Journal, 11/1/17.

For a previous News Grouper items a State of the James report (2011), please see this link.

James River at Eagle Rock Botetourt County Jul22 2017 looking downstream
James River at Eagle Rock, Va. (Botetourt County), July 22, 2017.

On Virginia Water Radio for 10-23-17: What Watery Bird Flocks in a Codgery or a Commotion?

If you guessed an American Coot, you’re right!

This widespread aquatic bird, whose flocks have various colorful names, is the subject of Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of October 23, 2017.  The 3 min./39 sec. episode, available online at

391 Image 2 Coot flock USFWS

A flock–or codgery, commotion, or several other names–of American Coots, photographed in Alaska. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, made available for public use by the Service’s National Digital Library, online at, accessed 10-19-17; URL for specific image:

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!

Vibrio Bacteria and Potential Increases in Chesapeake Bay Temperatures Examined in Research Published in September 2017

In research published in September 2017, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists found that, depending on future levels of emissions, changing climate conditions might lead to an increase in Chesapeake Bay populations of three common species of Vibrio bacteria by the end of the 21st Century, with potentially significant economic and healthcare costs.

The research paper is “Projections of the future occurrence, distribution, and seasonality of three Vibrio species in the Chesapeake Bay under a high-emission climate change scenario,” by Barbara A. Muhling, et al.  It was published online on September 26, 2017, by GeoHealth (a journal of the American Geophyical Union) and is available at

Following is an excerpt from NOAA’s news release on the research (Warming Climate Could Increase Bacterial Impacts on Chesapeake Bay Shellfish, Recreation, 9/26/17).

“Researchers have found that three common species of Vibrio bacteria in Chesapeake Bay could increase with changing climate conditions by the end of this century, resulting in significant economic and healthcare costs from illnesses caused by exposure to contaminated water and consumption of contaminated shellfish. …

“Vibrio bacteria occur naturally in the Chesapeake Bay and in coastal and estuarine waters around the world.  About a dozen Vibrio species can cause human illness, known as vibriosis.  Two of the most common species causing human illness in the United States, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus, occur in the Chesapeake Bay.  Their abundance varies with water temperature, salinity and other environmental factors.  A third species, Vibrio cholerae, also occurs in Chesapeake Bay but is not associated with cholera epidemics, although like other Vibrio species it can sometimes cause illness in people who eat contaminated shellfish, such as oysters.

“Researchers used four different global climate models and data from eight locations in and around the bay and its tributaries to project how warming temperatures and changing freshwater inputs might impact the three Vibrio bacteria in the bay and its oyster populations by the end of this century.  The findings showed substantial future increases in the occurrence, distribution, and length of the season for V. vulnificus and V. parahaemolyticus, and an increase in favorable habitat for V. cholerae, although this was confined to low salinity regions of the bay. …

“Laboratory experiments suggest that optimum temperatures for Vibrio species are between 37 and 39 degrees C, or 98.6 to 102.2 degrees F, much warmer than current conditions in the Chesapeake Bay.  All three Vibrio strains now occur more frequently and in higher abundances in warmer months of the year, when water temperatures are also warmer.  Each strain or species appears to have a distinct salinity range, meaning the Vibrios could potentially increase only when other environmental factors are or become favorable in a specific area in the bay. …

“Disease risk from Vibrios already exists in the Chesapeake Bay.  Environmental and resource managers are aware of it, as are many local residents and shellfish consumers.  Some measures designed to reduce the risk of Vibrio-related illness from harvested oysters are already in place.  For example, in warmer months, oysters must be refrigerated by a certain time of day after being harvested.  As temperatures continue to warm, these set times of day may need to be adjusted to ensure that oysters remain safe to eat.  The months of the year where these regulations are applied may also need to be extended.”

Related media article: Climate change brings heightened risks in Bay of contaminated water, shellfish, Bay Journal, 9/28/17.

A Diplomatic Contest Resulting in More Potomac River Submerged Aquatic Vegetation in June 2017

On June 5, 2017, embassy officials from several nations met at the Potomac River in Mason Neck State Park, in Fairfax County, Va., to plant Wild Celery raised from seed in embassy offices from January to June.  China won the friendly competition to see which embassy could raise the best collection of this submerged aquatic plant, one of the community of submerged plants—known as SAVs or bay grasses—upon which the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries depend for water quality and for wildlife food and habitat.

The project was organized by the U.S. State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which for 17 years has run the “Grasses for the Masses” program to educate people about this component of the Bay ecosystem.

More information and a video (1 min./57 sec.) of the June 5 planting event is available from the Voice of America, online at

More information about the Grasses for the Masses program in a July 2017 article in “Headwaters,” from the Virginia office of CBF, available online (as a PDF) at (as of 8/24/17).

Additional source: “Thanks to diplomats’ efforts, the grass is greener in their backyard estuary,” by Whitney Pipkin, Bay Journal, July-August 2017.