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Official DEQ news releases.

List administrator(s): Bill Hayden, Jennifer Underwood, Irina Calos, John Tragesser

2010 report details status of water quality in Virginia

August 23, 2010

Contact: Bill Hayden
(804) 698-4447

RICHMOND, VA. -- Virginia’s 2010 water quality report, released today by the Department of Environmental Quality, provides detailed information on more than 1,200 watersheds in the Commonwealth. This report contains a water quality assessment from January 2003 to December 2008, as well as the statewide list of impaired waters.

“We continue to find watersheds where pollution is a problem,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said, “but we also are seeing more areas where water quality has improved. This is good news that we expect to continue as our cleanup efforts progress throughout the state.”

This year DEQ has added about 1,400 miles of streams and rivers, and 2,500 acres of lakes to the impaired waters list. About 25 square miles of estuaries were removed from the list. Virginia needs to develop about 1,200 cleanup plans, in addition to an undetermined number of cleanup plans resulting from the 2010 listing.

More than 430 waters have been removed from the impaired waters list because they now fully meet water quality standards. An additional 600 waters have been removed for at least one impairment. In addition, about 80 full delistings and 540 partial delistings are proposed in this year’s report.

Every two years Virginia monitors about one third of the state’s watersheds on a rotating basis, taking six years to complete a full monitoring cycle. The agency has assessed 98 percent – or 1,218 – of 1,247 watersheds since the 2002 report.

The report provides, as in past assessments, the number of stream miles and the area of lakes, reservoirs and estuaries assessed. Among the information contained in the report:

• About 5,600 miles of rivers and streams, 16,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs, and 113 square miles of estuaries have high water quality that supports some or all six designated uses – aquatic life, fish and shellfish consumption, swimming, public water supplies and wildlife.
• About 12,100 miles of rivers and streams, 96,500 acres of lakes and reservoirs, and 2,200 square miles of estuaries are impaired.
• Sufficient information was not available on about 34,500 miles of streams and rivers, and 3,700 acres of lakes and reservoirs.

DEQ invites public comment on the contents of the report until September 24, 2010, at 5 p.m. A webinar summarizing the findings in the report will be held on the Internet on August 26, 2010, from 11 a.m. to noon. Those interested must register in advance at Questions about the report may be submitted online during the webinar.

The draft 2010 water quality report is available on the DEQ website at Written comments on the report should be sent to Darryl M. Glover, DEQ water quality monitoring and assessment manager, or by email attachment at or by mail at P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, Va. 23218. DEQ requests that all emailed and written comments include the sender’s name, mailing address, phone number and email address.

From: Bill Hayden

Sent: August 23, 2010 at 10:30 am

Secretary Domenech to tour Southwest Virginia

July 27, 2010

Contact: Sara Benghauser
Phone: (804) 786-0044

Richmond – Doug Domenech, Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources, will participate in his first tour of Southwest Virginia since taking office in January.

“I am looking forward to being back in this important region of the Commonwealth,” said Domenech. “As a student at Virginia Tech, I fought fires in Wise County with the U.S. Forest Service, and my family has hiked many times at Grayson Highlands State Park and Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area.”

During this trip, July 28 to 30, Domenech will meet and address state employees at the Regional Headquarters of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in Abingdon, and participate in a tour of historic sites in downtown Abingdon.

“It is a great honor to work with the men and women at DEQ and DCR who are dedicated to the wise management of Virginia’s abundant natural resources,” said Domenech.

The tour of downtown historic sites was arranged by the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) which is part of the Natural Resources secretariat. Expected to join the Secretary on the tour are: Town Manager Greg Kelly, Mayor Ed Morgan, Town Council Member Rick Humphrey, former director of the William King Art Center, Betsy White, and DHR Acting Regional Director Mike Pulice from Roanoke.

“Abingdon has a rich history” said Domenech. “The town was founded in 1778 during the American Revolution and the Abingdon Historic District was one of the first registered historic districts in Virginia, listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1969 and the National Register the following year. Abingdon is blessed by having so much of that history still preserved.”

Secretary Domenech will also visit Natural Tunnel State Park in Scott County, near Gate City. Called the Eighth Wonder of the World by William Jennings Bryan, Natural Tunnel has been attracting sightseers to the mountains of southwestern Virginia for more than 100 years and today is the focal point of Natural Tunnel State Park, one of Virginia’s 35 award winning state parks.

“I am looking forward to seeing this wonderful creation,” said Domenech, “and meeting the Park employees.”

During his visit, the Secretary will participate in a reception at the Cove Ridge Center with representatives from the Cove Ridge Foundation, Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association, Scott County Tourism, and the Scott County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He will also meet with representatives of the Duffield Wilderness Road Interpretive Center Project.

Domenech will also travel to Buchanan County to visit the operations of Jewell Smokeless Coal Corporation in Vansant, VA and meet with local officials. He will also tour the Southern Gap Development Area to view Post-Mining Land Use Projects and Airport Reconstruction Plans.

“People in Virginia’s coal country work hard to provide energy for the Commonwealth and across the country,” said Domenech.

Background on Secretary Domenech

Douglas W. Domenech was appointed Secretary of Natural Resources on January 17, 2010 by Governor Robert McDonnell.

In this capacity Domenech (pronounced “DOM-en-etch”) is responsible for six state agencies including the:

Department of Environmental Quality

Department of Conservation and Recreation

Department of Historic Resources

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and

Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Virginia Museum of Natural History

Previously, Secretary Domenech served in a number of positions at the U.S. Department of Interior from 2001 to 2009 including as White House Liaison and as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary.

A forestry and wildlife management graduate from Virginia Tech, Domenech has had a career in natural resource management including work for the US Forest Service, ITT Rayonier paper company, Alabama A&M University, and 12 years working for the Forest Resources Association. He was appointed by Governor George Allen to the Goose Creek Scenic River Advisory Board and the Commonwealth Competition Council. Under Governor Jim Gilmore he was appointed to the Virginia Board of Forestry.

Prior to his appointment as Secretary, Domenech was the Senior Vice President of Artemis Strategies, a Washington, DC based government relations firm and as a principal at Chrysalis Energy Partners, an energy consulting firm focused on renewable energy issues.

From: Bill Hayden

Sent: July 28, 2010 at 9:05 am

Virginia issues statewide drought watch

July 14, 2010

Contact: Bill Hayden
(804) 698-4447

RICHMOND, VA. – Precipitation deficits and above-average temperatures have resulted in the emergence of drought impacts across much of the Commonwealth. In response to existing conditions and the potential for the situation to intensify quickly, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued a statewide drought watch.

A drought watch is intended to increase awareness of climatic conditions that are likely to precede a significant drought event and to facilitate preparation for a drought. Despite recent rain in portions of the Commonwealth, the potential exists for drought impacts to intensify if hot, dry conditions redevelop. DEQ recommends planning for that possibility as Virginia heads into the statistically driest months of the year.

The Virginia Drought Assessment and Response Plan specifies four indicators that are used to evaluate the severity of a drought: precipitation deficits, stream flow, ground water levels and reservoir levels. Stream flows in all areas of the Commonwealth, with the exception of Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, are at levels that indicate a drought watch or more severe drought status. Ground water levels in western and south central Virginia indicate a drought watch status, and levels in much of the remainder of the state are close to drought watch status.

The primary factors contributing to the declaration of a statewide drought watch are:

• Approximately 86 percent of the Commonwealth is experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
• Most of Virginia has experienced below normal precipitation in the last 60 days, and some areas have received less than 50 percent of the average precipitation. Short-term weather forecasts do not indicate a high probability of widespread, significant precipitation events that will erase these deficits.
• The majority of stream monitoring locations across Virginia are recording stream flows below normal ranges (less than the 25th percentile). The portions of the state with the lowest flows are southeast and central Virginia, where stream flows are consistent with moderate to severe hydrologic drought conditions.
• Agricultural interests statewide are seeing impacts from the dry conditions. Impacts include poor hay harvests, poor grazing conditions resulting in the use of hay reserves, and indications of stress to crops including corn.
• Observations during the last few weeks indicate that wildfire occurrence, rates of spread and fire intensity are much greater than would normally be expected during this time of the year. Twenty Virginia localities had issued burning bans as of July 12.
• There are no widespread reports of drought conditions affecting public water supplies.
• Levels of large reservoirs such as Lake Moomaw, Smith Mountain Lake, Kerr Reservoir and Philpott Reservoir have been slowly declining since June.

Through the drought watch declaration, the Commonwealth is encouraging localities, public water suppliers and self-supplied water users to voluntarily take these steps to help protect current water supplies:

• Minimize nonessential water use.
• Review existing or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take conservation actions consistent with those plans.
• Include water conservation information on local websites and distribute water conservation information as broadly as possible.
• Continue monitoring the condition of public waterworks and self-supplied water systems in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.
• Impose water use restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions.
• Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.

The state and local governments are closely monitoring conditions across the Commonwealth, and revisions to the drought stage will be made as conditions warrant. Updated information on the current drought status and water conservation tips are available on the DEQ website at

From: Bill Hayden

Sent: July 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

Virginia issues solid waste report for 2009

June 24, 2010

CONTACT: Bill Hayden
(804) 698-4447

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality released its annual report today on solid waste management in Virginia. The report includes the amounts of solid waste managed in Virginia in 2009, and the amounts and sources of solid waste generated outside the Commonwealth.

The total amount of solid waste received at Virginia facilities during 2009 decreased by about 2.5 million tons (11.2 percent) from 2008. Solid waste includes municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, vegetative and yard waste, and other types of waste. The total amount of solid waste from outside Virginia decreased by about 1.3 million tons (19.1 percent) to about 5.3 million tons. The total amount from within Virginia decreased by 1.2 million tons (7.8 percent) to about 14.2 million tons.

Other findings of the report include:

• Of the nearly 19.6 million tons of solid waste reported in 2009, approximately 13.2 million tons (68 percent) were municipal solid waste, which is trash from households and businesses.
• The total amount of municipal solid waste generated outside Virginia was approximately 4.3 million tons, a decrease of about 807,000 tons (15.9 percent). Maryland, New York, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and North Carolina accounted for 97.5 percent of all waste received from out-of-state sources.
• Of the total solid waste reported in 2009, about 3.2 million tons (16.3 percent) were construction and demolition debris.
• Of the total solid waste managed in Virginia in 2009, about 12.5 million tons (77.8 percent) were disposed of in landfills, about 2.1 million tons (13 percent) were incinerated. The rest was managed by other means, including mulching and recycling.

The full solid waste report is available on the DEQ website at

From: Bill Hayden

Sent: June 24, 2010 at 11:30 am

State investigators prepare for possible fish disease and mortality outbreaks

April 19, 2010

Contact: Bill Hayden, DEQ
(804) 698-4447

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries continue to track and investigate springtime fish disease and mortality events that have occurred in several rivers in the western part of Virginia in recent years. Only a few isolated problems have been reported to date this spring, but as the period begins when these events have occurred in past years, the state agencies are enhancing their investigation by seeking input from the public.

Since 2004, fish disease outbreaks and mortality have occurred in the Shenandoah River basin. In spring 2007 similar events began in the upper James and Cowpasture rivers. The impacts appear to be most severe among smallmouth bass and sunfish, although other types of fish also have been affected. Outbreaks often are accompanied by open sores, or skin lesions, in many of the diseased fish. Typically these events have begun in the spring when water temperatures rise into the 50s and have continued until water temperatures reach the mid-70s, generally running from early April until mid-May.

In 2005, DEQ and DGIF formed the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force, a group of stakeholders, including university and government scientists, environmental groups, fishing guides, and volunteer monitors - all with the goal of finding the cause of the annual spring die-off events. This coordinated approach helped state agencies set priorities, identify, conduct and evaluate research into causes of the springtime outbreaks.

Studies by state and federal scientists and several university researchers have focused on water chemistry, general health of fish and other aquatic life, and fish diseases. Water quality studies to date have not identified any individual chemicals at levels that would be expected to cause fish disease or mortality. Fish health studies indicate that fish are subjected to multiple stresses, with evidence of damaged skin, gills and internal organs. Fish appear to have a high number of internal parasites, and a high prevalence of a condition called fish intersex also has been observed in some species.

Biological pathogens, especially bacterial fish diseases, have come under greater focus during the past two years. Initial findings suggest links between certain bacteria and the disease outbreaks. Ongoing studies involving DEQ, DGIF and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Leetown, W. Va., Science Center, continue to explore the role of bacterial communities, along with environmental and contaminant factors that may cause immune suppression.

The public has made a significant difference in this investigation. State officials and environmental leaders have learned of many of these outbreaks from reports provided by fishermen, land owners and other river users. Knowing the timing and distribution of these events will help scientists focus on the areas where incidents are active, and will help generate the most meaningful data. This information also allows DEQ and DGIF to post current information on locations and severity of fish disease and mortality and share this information with the public through updates on the agency websites.

The public is encouraged to continue to provide reports on observations of diseased, dying or dead fish. Helpful information includes location, date, unusual water conditions, types and numbers of fish, and photographs. Anyone with information on dead or dying fish is encouraged to contact the DEQ regional office in Harrisonburg at (540) 574-7800, or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-592-5482. Information also can be emailed to

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: April 19, 2010 at 10:42 am