The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality released the final version of the 2010 Water Quality Report, the so-called “dirty waters list” of Virginia streams, rivers, lakes, and bays found to be polluted. According to a release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- DEQ monitors, or tests, only about 34 percent of Virginia rivers and streams – the rest (two-thirds of Virginia’s rivers) it does not test or has too little information with which to draw any conclusions. If you can’t find a local stream or river on the list, don’t assume it’s because it is not polluted.
- The findings in this report cover a six-year period, so data on a stream in your particular area may be as old as 2002 (the 2010 report compiles data from 2002-2008).
- DEQ has “delisted” some streams and rivers that were on previous dirty waters lists. About half of those were because water quality actually got better; about half were for other reasons (standards were changed, definitions were changed, etc.).
- DEQ continues to find more polluted waterways in Virginia with each report; this 2010 report found 12,101 polluted stream miles, compared to 10,543 in ’08, compared to 9,002 in ’06, etc.
NOTE: The DEQ’s budget seems to get cut regularly, and it simply does not have the resources to do a more comprehensive job – but neither should you infer that this report represents the bulk of Virginia water pollution problems. What is true is that, in this report, DEQ examined 17,753 stream miles and found 12,101 to be polluted, or nearly 70 percent. The consistent theme seems to be, the more the state looks for water pollution, the more it finds. Also note that nearly the entire Chesapeake Bay estuary is polluted.
Highlights pulled from the 2010 Water Quality Report that pertain to the Falls of the James in Richmond:
Virginia Department of Health fish advisory: James River mainstem from Big Island dam downstream to the I-95 Bridge in Richmond to include a portion of the Hardware and Slate Rivers. The advisory recommends that no more than two meals/month of the following species be consumed: Gizzard Shad, Carp, American Eel, Flathead Catfish, Quillback Carpsucker.
During the 2010 cycle, Rattlesnake Creek was assessed as not supporting of the Recreation Use due to an E. coli exceedance rate of 4/11 at station 2, located at Riverside Drive. [Page 469]
Powhite Creek was initially assessed as not supporting of the Recreation use goal during the 2002 cycle based on fecal coliform standard exceedances at the Forest Hill Avenue bridge The WQS converted to E. coli in the 2008 cycle. The segment remains impaired. The original TMDL due date is maintained. During the 2008 cycle, Powhite Creek was assessed as not supporting of the Aquatic Life use goal due to impairment of the benthic community at station 2, which is a freshwater probabilistic monitoring station. [Page 470]
Reedy Creek was initially listed as threatened of the Recreation Use during the year 1998 cycle due to fecal coliform exceedances. The segment was downgraded to impaired in the year 2002 assessment. During the 2006 cycle, the fecal coliform exceedance rate on Riverside Drive in the City of Richmond was acceptable, however the E. coli exceedance rate was 2/8. The impairment was converted to E. coli, but the original TMDL due date was maintained.
Additional E. coli monitoring has been conducted in preparation for the TMDL. During the 2010 cycle, the segment remained impaired.
During the 2008 cycle Reedy Creek was assessed as not supporting the Aquatic Life Use due to dissolved oxygen exceedances at the 44th Street bridge and at the Deter Road bridge. The exceedance rates were 3/25 and 3/12 at two spots during the 2010 cycle. During the 2010 cycle, the portion of Reedy Creek around station was assessed as impaired of the Aquatic Life Use due to elevated pH levels. The exceedance rate was 2/13 during the 2010 cycle. [Page 472]
Segment begins at the Boulevard Bridge and extends downstream to the fall line of the James River.The James River was initially assessed not supporting of the Recreation use support goal in 1998 based on the results of a summer special study in the fall zone. The special study was designed to monitor the effects of summertime rain and combined sewer overflow (CSO) events on water quality in the James River and to monitor the effects of Richmond’s CSO abatement efforts. The special study data used representative conditions before completion of CSO abatement projects.
The segment was extended upstream from the 1998 cycle to the Williams Island dam during the 2002 assessment. The TMDL for the original portion (Boulevard Bridge to Fall Line) is due in 2010, but the TMDL for the upstream portion is not due until 2014. During the 2006 cycle, the area above Boulevard Bridge had an acceptable E. coli instantaneous exceedance rate of 0/16, however there was an exceedance of the monthly geometric mean in July 2003. Typically, one exceedance would result in an assessment of fully supporting with observed effects, however since the area was previously impaired, the segment was not delisted.
During the 2008 cycle, the E. coli geometric mean exceedance rate fell to 0/9 and there were zero instantaneous exceedances in 42 samples, therefore the extended upstream portion from the Williams Island dam downstream to the Boulevard Bridge was partially delisted and the impairment returned to its original size.
In the 2010 cycle, the segment remained impaired. Although the upstream-most station had an acceptable exceedance rate, it has historically been impaired and there are multiple impaired stations within the segment, therefore the segment length was not changed this cycle.