The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing and Friends of the James River Park christened “Deepwater Sponger” at its new James Riverside home Thursday evening and heard an update on water quality issues.
Speeches on the importance of water quality and conservation from Charles Ponticello, the creator of the sculpture, and Anne Wright, Assistant Professor of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In an interview the following day, Wright said the event had a great turnout. “I figured it as a pretty literate group on the topic of water quality,” Wright said of the gathering, which she estimated was about 80 people, including many members of the FOJRP (she is on the group’s board) and many members of the art community, there in support of Ponticello.
“There is a high quality community of bugs in the Falls of the James River,” Wright said, referring to research conducted by VCU. “You can tell a lot about the quality of water with insects.
“I’m an aquatic insect geek,” she said. Aquatic insects are in their larval stage in the water and “that’s what fish eat…it’s a good measuring stick for the health of the water.” It indicates that the water quality is improving and that there is more food available to animals that depend on the river.
During the evening, she said that James River Park manager Ralph White noticed stone flies on the windows of The Boathouse. That particular insect hatches in the dead of winter, Wright said. “Water quality has to be high to support an insect like stone flies,” and for whatever reason, the water temperature is cold enough in Richmond to support that population.
Wright mentioned that she and others are hoping to organize a lecture series for the Richmond area to further discuss environmental issues pertaining to the James River.
The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing and Friends of the James River Park will welcome “Deepwater Sponger” with program featuring VCU professor Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. See the release:
Background: A six-foot-tall, one-ton cast-iron sculpture called “Deepwater Sponger” was recently installed on the banks of the James River at Rocketts Landing. In order to officially welcome the piece to Richmond, Rocketts Landing and the Friends of the James River Park are hosting a reception and program at The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing that focuses on water quality and conservation.
What: Official christening of Deepwater Sponger at its new James Riverside home, along with an update on water quality issues during the reception. Speeches on the importance of water quality and conservation from Charles Ponticello, the creator of the sculpture, and Anne Wright, Assistant Professor of Biology at VCU, who will speak to the strides that have been made on water quality and conservation and what still needs to be done.
Where: The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing, 4708 East Old Main Street.
Do 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?
More Virginia waterways are polluted than ever before, but more than ever are being cleaned. That was the good and bad news in a 2010 water-quality report the state Department of Environmental Quality issued in August.
According to the report:
•12,103 miles of streams are polluted, up from 10,543 in 2008, when the last report came out.
•96,510 acres of lakes are dirty, up from 94,044.
•2,157 square miles of estuaries — basically tidal waters — are polluted, down from 2,182.
At the same time, 433 stretches were removed from the state’s dirty-water list because they met pollution standards. That’s up from 318 in 2008. Read more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and on NBC12.
Do you think the James is dirty? Does this report scare you off from river activities?