Category Archives: Water Quality and Habitat in Virginia’s Southern Rivers

Items related to aquatic life and conditions in Virginia’s “southern rivers”: Big Sandy, Chowan, Clinch/Holston/Powell, New, and Roanoke.

Clean Water Rule/Waters of the United States Rule of 2015 – Public Comment Period through Sept. 27, 2017, on Proposed Rescinding

On June 27, 2017, the Trump Administration announced a proposed repeal of the  Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States rule, with a potential revised rule to follow at a future date.  On February 28, the Administration had issued a On February 28, the EPA issued a Notice of Intention to Review and Rescind or Revise the Clean Water Rule,  the Notice is available online at https://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule/notice-intention-review-and-rescind-or-revise-clean-water-rule).

The repeal would reinstate the jurisdictional rule in place in 1986 and a guidance issued in 2008, following the Supreme Court’s Rapanos decision in 2006.  Information on the proposed repeal is available online at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203-0001.  Following official posting on July 27, 2017, of the proposal to rescind, the proposal initially had a 30-day public comment period through August 27, but the comment period was extended until September 27.

The rule, regarding what waters fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act, was issued by the Obama administration in May 2015, but in October 2015 the Appeals Court issued a stay on implementation of the rule, pending the outcome of several federal lawsuits challenging the U.S. EPA over the rule.  For more on the latest developments on this rule, see the U.S. EPA Web site, “Clean Water Rule,” online at https://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule.

Click here for more detailed News Grouper post on the Clean Water Rule.

Draft Biennial Water Quality Report Released by Virginia DEQ on Aug. 7, 2017; Public Comment Period Ends Sep. 6, 2017

Some of the information for this post was provided by the Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC).  More information about the VWMC is available online at http://www.vwmc.vwrrc.vt.edu/

On August 7, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released for public comment the draft 2016 report on water quality in the Virginia’s streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries.  The draft report, referred to as the 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report (the numbers refer to relevant sections of the federal Clean Water Act) is available online at http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityAssessments/2016305b303dIntegratedReport.aspx (as of 8/15/17).  The Clean Water Act requires such a report every two years.  The 2016 report includes assessments of conditions in Virginia’s waters based on data gathered from January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2014.

According to the draft 2016 report’s Executive Summary, the report assesses the Commonwealth’s water quality based on data from DEQ staff monitoring at 4025 monitoring stations plus data from over 100 citizen groups and other government agencies.  The report’s assessments cover about 7,177 stream miles (23 percent of the state total), 20,318 lake/reservoir acres (97 percent of the state total), and 315 estuary square miles (97.5 percent of the state total).

According to page 4 of the draft report’s Introduction, every two years on a rotating basis, Virginia monitors about one third of the state’s “sub-watersheds” (small drainage areas that combine to form larger river basins), taking six years to complete a full monitoring cycle.

The report describes conditions overall and lists “impaired” water bodies; that is, those that do not meet state water-quality standards and do not support the public uses designated for the water bodies (aquatic life, fish consumption, public water supplies [where applicable], recreation [swimming], shellfishing, and wildlife).  Such waters usually require a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study and implementation plan.

Here are two key findings from the draft 2016 report, according to the Executive Summary.  The numbers given below are subject to revision following public comment and review by the U.S. EPA.

1) Impaired waters now include 15,713 miles of rivers and streams (about 16 percent of the total stream miles in Virginia); 93,508 acres of lakes and reservoirs (about 80 percent of Virginia’s total), and 2,132 square miles of estuaries (about 75 percent of Virginia’s total).

2) Compared to the last biennial report (2014, based on data from 2007-2012), the 2016 draft report shows increased in the number of streams, lake/reservoir acres, and estuary square miles that are not impaired.  Click here for the 2014 biennial report: http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityAssessments/2014305(b)303(d)IntegratedReport.aspx.

The draft report is undergoing a public-comment period until September 6, 2017; written comments on the draft report can be sent to Sandra Mueller, Va. DEQ, Office of Water Monitoring and Assessment, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, Virginia 23218; phone (804) 698-4324; e-mail: sandra.mueller@deq.virginia.gov.

A public webinar on the draft report will be held August 24, 2017, 10 a.m. EDT  Submitted questions will be addressed and posted in a document on the DEQ Web site.  Registration for the webinar is available at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8931096941103573505.

Virginia DEQ Inviting Proposals for Citizen Water-quality Monitoring Grants for 2018; Applications Due August 31, 2017

Through August 31, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is inviting proposals for citizen water-quality monitoring grants for 2018.  The grants are to cover project activities from January 1 to December 31, 2018; a final report on the use of the grants funds will be due by February 16, 2018.  Any organization that involves citizen volunteers in water-quality monitoring in Virginia is eligible to apply.

This year, the DEQ is offering three kinds of grants:

Mini-Grant (up to $1,000): Open only to applicants who have not received a DEQ citizen monitoring grant in the previous three years.  The grantee must use at least one-third of the award for equipment and begin water monitoring before the end of the grant period.

Regular Grant (up to $5,000): Maximum award up to $5,000.  Recommended to applicants already familiar with water quality monitoring.  The applicant must submit a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) if a grant is awarded, and begin water monitoring before the end of the grant period.

Coordination Grant (up to $11,000): Open only to applicants who meet the following three conditions.
1 – Coordinate at least three member monitoring organizations that total 35 or more volunteers.  A member monitoring organization is defined as an organization that collects water quality samples but uses the coordinator protocols or submits their data to the coordinating organization.
2 – Monitoring occurs at more than 50 sample sites.
3 – Monitoring occurs in three Virginia city and/or county localities. The grantee must submit a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), and begin water monitoring before the end of the grant period.

DEQ will only accept one application from a requesting group.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) information is available online at http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityMonitoring/CitizenMonitoring/GrantOpportunities.aspx.

For more information, contact Stuart Torbeck, Va. DEQ Data Liaison, at (804) 698-4461 or charles.torbeck@deq.virginia.gov.

The Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC) provided information for this post.  More information on the VWMC is available online at http://www.vwmc.vwrrc.vt.edu/.

 

On Virginia Water Radio for 8-7-17: Proposed Gas Pipelines and Water Quality Issues

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of August 7, 2017, is “Natural Gas Pipelines, Water Resources, and the Clean Water Act.”  The 5 min./10 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/08/episode-380-8-7-17-natural-gas.html, gives an overview of the water resources potential affected by the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley gas pipelines, plus an introduction to the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification process, the subject of public comment/public hearings in Virginia from August 7-14, 2017.


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

Spills Affecting Water in Virginia – Cumulative List of Incidents Starting May 2017; Latest: September 2017 Announcement of Proposed Consent Agreement for June 2014 Truck Spill of Formaldehyde in County 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 September 13, 2017, is 25.  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.

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 http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Enforcement/SignedConsentPN/NicholsTransport2017.pdf?ver=2017-09-15-072239-160).  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 http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Enforcement/PublicNotices.aspxSource: 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 http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Enforcement/PublicNotices.aspx.

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.  Sources: 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.

Detailed Investigative Report on Munitions Disposal at Radford Army Ammunition Plant on New River in Montgomery County, Va., Published by ProPublica in July 2017

“Open burns, ill winds,” published by ProPublica on July 20, 2017, is a long, detailed, investigative article examines the U.S. military’s practices for disposing of munitions waste.  It focuses specifically on the use of open-air burning at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) along the New River in Montgomery County, Virginia, and concerns over potential health impacts of air emissions from that kind of disposal.  It examines permitting and permit monitoring issues for federal and state regulators regarding potential water, air, and health contaminants; the history of disposal practices at other various locations in the United States and in other countries; and concerns and questions raised by local residents.  The article is available online at https://www.propublica.org/article/military-pollution-open-burns-radford-virginia.

On its Web site, https://www.propublica.org, ProPublica states that it is “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.”

For more on developments at the RAAP since 2015, please see this Water Central News Grouper post: Hazardous Waste Open-air Incineration at Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP).

On Virginia Water Radio for 7-24-17: A Brief Introduction to the Huge Subject of Water Quality

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of July 24, 2017, is “The Complicated Challenge of Cleaner Water.”  The 4 min./33 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/07/episode-378-7-24-17-complicated.html, is a basic introduction to water quality concepts and the water-quality governmental framework in Virginia.

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