RIVER RAVE: Enjoying a cleaner James River?

Crowds enjoying Belle Isle, as viewed from the Robert E. Lee BridgeDo we take for granted these days how clean the James River is as it passes through Richmond, especially considering that it used to be an extension of the sewer system whenever it rained?  That was a long time ago, but back then people didn’t swim in the river. Some environmental pioneers, like Newton Ancarrow, did their best to wake up Richmond to the neglected, polluted river.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the water quality for the James River as it flows through the city rates well in tests for E. coli bacteria (except when the river levels are high due to heavy rains) at five key swimming areas: Pony Pasture, 42nd Street (Main Area), North Bank (Texas Beach), Belle Isle (Hollywood Rapid) and Tredegar Beach (Brown’s Island).

A few long-time James River photographers I’ve spoken with have lamented that they didn’t take photos of the bad things they saw back when the river was so polluted. Those photos could stand as a testament to how far the health of the James has progressed.

For many Richmonders, the James River is playground. Do you remember a time when the James was dirty and unsuitable for recreation? Do we take that for granted now? How important to you is it that the James is clean? How much time and effort do you put toward its upkeep?


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