Category Archives: Wastewater

“Water is Life” is the Theme of the Annual SERCAP Meeting on April 11, 2018, and the Focus of the Organization’s Mission

April 11, 2018, is the date for the annual “Water is Life! Luncheon and Conference” held by the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc., or SERCAP, located in Roanoke, Va.  For information about the annual luncheon/conference, e-mail, or contact SERCAP at 347 Campbell Avenue, Roanoke, VA 24016; phone (540) 345-1184.

The 2018 event will mark the 49th anniversary of SERCAP, whose mission is to help provide safe and adequate water and wastewater, community development, environmental health, and economic self-sufficiency to rural citizens in seven southeastern states: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  SERCAP is one of six rural community assistance projects in the United States.  More information about SERCAP is available online at

For an audio take on SERCAP and its April 2017 meeting, have a listen to Virginia Water Radio Episode 366 (5-1-17) (4 min./51 sec.), online at

Water for Tomorrow photo
“Water for Tomorrow,” an influential 1988 report on water and wastewater needs by locality in Virginia, was published by the Virginia Water Project, the predecessor to SERCAP.

Biosolids Study by Virginia’s JLARC Released October 10, 2017

On October 20, 2017, Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released “Land Application of Biosolids and Industrial Residuals,” a 101-page report called for by the 2016 Virginia General Assembly (HJ 120, online at  The full report, a summary, and the list of recommendations are available online at  Following is the overview of the study provided by JLARC at that Web site.


In 2016, the General Assembly directed JLARC to study land application of biosolids and industrial residuals in Virginia. The mandate specifically called for staff to analyze the scientific research literature on potential effects on human health and the environment.


Biosolids and industrial residuals are nutrient-rich materials left over at the end of sewage treatment or a manufacturing process. If they meet regulatory standards, these materials are can be applied to farm and forest land as agricultural fertilizers. Biosolids and industrial residuals contain pathogens and chemicals that may pose risks to human health and the environment. To minimize these risks, they are subject to federal and state regulations.


Regulations generally protect human health and water quality.

Land application of biosolids and industrial residuals poses some risk to human health and water quality, but the risk is low under current state regulations. This conclusion is based on the best available scientific evidence, but more research could reduce uncertainty.

Even though risk is low, risk is sometimes slightly elevated during land application for nearby residents, who may inhale aerosolized contaminants. During land application, small particles of material become airborne. This material can be inhaled, potentially causing gastrointestinal illness or the common cold.

The state’s regulatory requirements may not adequately mitigate this risk for nearby residents, but only under conditions that are optimal for exposure: when Class B biosolids (which contain pathogens) are applied and nearby residents are downwind and outside for an extended period during application. These conditions present greater risk at a small number of sites that receive far more land applications than other sites.

Regulatory compliance programs are generally effective.

The Departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture and Consumer Services (DEQ and VDACS) each operate compliance programs that are generally effective. Both agencies’ processes ensure regulatory compliance. DEQ’s process to review and approve land application permit requests is reasonable and appropriately involves the public. VDACS’s process to initially certify products as safe and beneficial is also reasonable.

DEQ’s process to inspect land application sites and correct violations is effective. Although the agency now inspects a lower percentage of land applications than in prior years, it still was able to inspect 31 percent of application sites in 2016.

VDACS has an annual process for registering biosolids and industrial residuals, but its ongoing product verification process is not sufficient in all cases. VDACS does not verify, after its initial certification, that products continue to have acceptably low levels of potentially harmful chemicals.

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.

Public Comment Opportunity on FY 2018 Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund Priority List – Ends with Public Meeting on Oct. 26, 2017

The State Water Control Board’s draft priority list for Fiscal Year 2018 grants from the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund is undergoing public comment until a public meeting on October 26, 2017.  The meeting that day will be at 10 a.m. at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) office, 629 East Main Street in Richmond.  More details on the meeting is available online at

The draft list of loan recipients and projects is available from the DEQ online  More information about the Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund is available online at; or contact Walter Gills, Va. DEQ Clean Water Financing and Assistance Program, P. O. Box 1105, Richmond, Virginia  23218; phone (804) 698-4133; e-mail:

Safe Wastewater Use in Agriculture is Focus of 2016 United Nations Publication

Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture: Good Practice Examples was published in 2016 by the United Nations (UN) University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources.  Part of UN efforts begun in 2011 to focus on the use of wastewater in agriculture, the book presents 17 case studies of good practices from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The book is available online (direct link to PDF at

Virginia Campground Regulations Undergoing Periodic Review in 2016-17; Public Hearing Held June 20, 2017, in Richmond

In summer 2017, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Board of Health are considering revisions to the Commonwealth’s regulations governing campgrounds, including regulations for water supplies, wastewater facilities, solid-waste disposal, swimming facilities, pest control, and other environmental health aspects.  A public hearing on the proposed regulations was held June 20, 2017, at the Perimeter Center, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond; the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice for that meeting is online at

The proposed regulatory changes are part of a periodic review begun in 2016.  According to the VDH “Action Summary” (online at, “The intent of this regulatory action is to amend the regulations, to address current camping practices, update terminology, and remove or replace outdated requirements.”  The regulations are at Section 12 VAC 5‑450 in the Virginia Administrative Code.  The proposed changes were published in the Virginia Register of Regulations on May 29, 2017.  The public comment period ended July 28, 2017.  More information on this regulatory process is available online at

Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund – Applications for Fiscal Year 2018 Due by July 14, 2017

July 14, 2017, is the deadline to apply to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for financial assistance in Fiscal Year 2018 through the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund (VCWRLF).  The DEQ’s Web site for the FY 2018 program is online at

Here is an excerpt from that Web site:

“VCWRLF applications are being solicited for projects that involve improvements to publicly-owned wastewater collection and treatment facilities, installation of publicly-owned stormwater best management practices, projects for the remediation of contaminated brownfield properties and land conservation projects.  Eligible Brownfield loan recipients are units of local government, public service authorities, partnerships or corporations, and eligible land conservation recipients are state and local governments, public service authorities, and registered nonprofit organizations.

“Special consideration may be give to projects that meet the Green Project Reserve guidelines (online as a PDF at

“Finally, we are also accepting applications for Living Shoreline projects.  Local governments (which are the only eligible applicants for this program) can either apply for financial assistance in order to directly establish living shorelines themselves or establish a local government funding program for individual citizens to establish living shorelines on their properties to protect or improve water quality.  We anticipate that the [State Water Control Board] should have over $100 million in funds available for distribution during FY 2018.  Should demand for good water quality or public health related projects exceed availability, these funds may be leveraged in the municipal bond market to increase the amount of assistance available.”

The DEQ expects to present a proposed funding list to the Virginia State Water Control Board in September or October 2017.

Application details are available online at the Web site listed above.  For more information, contact Walter Gills, Va. DEQ, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218; phone: (804) 698-4133; e-mail:

On Virginia Water Radio for 5-1-17: SERCAP’s Past and Present of Paying Attention to Rural Water and Wastewater Needs

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, for the week of May 1, 2017, is “SERCAP Continues a Rural Water and Wastewater Focus That Began in 1969.”  The 4 min./51 sec. episode, available online at, introduces the Roanoke-based organization whose work since 1969 in rural water, wastewater, and community development has been a model for similar organizations nationwide.

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!

Virginia Clean Water Financing Programs under the Va. Dept. of Environmental Quality, as of March 2017

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), on behalf of the State Water Control Board and with financial management by the Virginia Resources Authority, operates several water-quality financing programs under the collective term of the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund (VCWRLF).

Previously known as the Virginia Revolving Loan Fund, the VCWRLF began in 1987 with a focus only on low-interest loans to localities for wastwater system infrastructure improvements.  As of March 2017, the VCWRLF includes not only the Wastewater Loan Program but also the the Brownfield Loan Program, the Land Conservation Loan Program, the Stormwater Loan Program, the Living Shorelines Program, and the Water Quality Improvement Fund, and the Agricultural Best Management Practices Program (suspended indefinitely).

Information about these programs is available online at; or by contacting Walter A. Gills, Program Manager, Department of Environmental Quality, Clean Water Financing & Assistance Program, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218; phone (804) 698-4133; e-mail:

More information about the Virginia Resources Authority is available online at

Virginia General Permit for Discharges from Petroleum Contaminated Sites Under Review in 2017

The Virginia State Water Control Board and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are considering reissuance and possible amendments to the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) general permit for discharges from petroleum contaminated sites, groundwater remediation, and hydrostatic tests.  As of March 2017, meetings were being held by the DEQ’s technical advisory committee formed for this regulatory review (for example, see the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall entry for the March 24, 2017, meeting).  The relevant section of the Virginia Administrative Code is 9 VAC 25-120.  The Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA) was published May 30, 2016.  According to the NOIRA, the “general permit covers point source discharges of wastewaters from sites contaminated by petroleum products [or by] chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents, and also the point source discharges of hydrostatic test wastewaters resulting from the testing of petroleum and natural gas storage tanks and pipelines.”

More information on the process of this regulatory action is available online at