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Official DEQ news releases.

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

Virginia DEQ finds significant PCB levels in James, Elizabeth river watersheds

Sept. 24, 2009

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- Testing of the upper tidal portions of the James and Elizabeth river watersheds shows that significant amounts of PCBs are reaching the rivers from sources on land, according to an ongoing study by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

DEQ is conducting the investigation of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, to help determine the extent of PCB contamination in the James and Elizabeth rivers. In the past, PCBs usually were detected in fish tissue or soil. Testing methods, though, have advanced to the point where very small amounts of PCBs can be measured directly in the water.

PCBs now can be detected at the level of picograms per liter, or parts per quadrillion. One part per quadrillion is equivalent to a single postage stamp on an envelope the size of California and Oregon combined. The water quality standard for PCBs in water designed to protect fish and other aquatic life is 640 ppq.

"The investigation of PCBs in the James and Elizabeth rivers is a complex task that will require time to complete," DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. "As we continue our investigation, we will focus on pinpointing sources of PCBs so we can take steps to reduce contamination levels in fish."

PCB results for the James River suggest that PCBs are actively entering the river from numerous tributaries, and ultimately from sources on land. These are in addition to previously identified PCB "hot spots" near the river between Richmond and Hopewell.

Water in the main channel of the James contains PCB levels that are near the water quality standard. However, results from several Richmond-area tributaries including Almond Creek, Gillie Creek and the Kanawha Canal show they are contributing significant amounts of PCBs to the river. PCB concentrations in these tributaries range from about 2,500 ppq to 18,000 ppq.

In the Hopewell area, Bailey Creek, Gravelly Run, an unnamed tributary to Cattail Creek and Poythress Run also are contributing significant amounts of PCBs to the James. PCBs in these streams range from 1,600 ppq to 233,000 ppq.

Water samples collected in the Elizabeth River also reveal areas of elevated PCB contamination. Most of the samples collected in the Southern Branch exceed the water quality standard, and the highest concentration of PCBs was detected near the mouth of Deep Creek (140,000 ppq). The Eastern Branch also yielded elevated concentrations. The highest concentration was observed near Military Boulevard (187,000 ppq). PCB concentrations are near the water quality standard in the Western Branch and the Elizabeth River mainstem. Inconclusive results indicate that the upper Lafayette River requires additional study.

The James River study includes the area from the fall line in Richmond at the Mayo Bridge, through Hopewell to about six miles downstream of the Benjamin Harrison Bridge. Several tributaries of the James, including the lower Appomattox River stretching upstream to Petersburg, and several small Appomattox tributaries also are being studied.

The PCB study area for the Elizabeth River includes the main channel beginning at the mouth of the river in Norfolk, along with the Eastern, Southern and Western branches, the Lafayette River and several small tributaries.

The PCB studies were initiated because these rivers are on DEQ's list of impaired, or polluted, waters. The source investigation is the first step in a study known as a "total maximum daily load." A TMDL identifies pollution sources and includes a plan for reducing the movement of pollutants to impaired streams. Additional investigation of possible PCB sources will continue as part of the TMDL process.

PCBs are chemicals once used as insulators or fire retardants in petroleum products such as transformer oil. Although the United States stopped manufacturing PCBs in the 1970s, they still can be found in the environment where they have leaked into the soil and water. The Virginia Department of Health recommends that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, infants and young children should avoid eating PCB-contaminated fish from advisory areas. A full list of waters and fish affected by the advisories is available on the health department's website at

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: September 24, 2009 at 8:08 am

Virginia solid waste report for 2008

June 8, 2009

Contact: Krystal Coxon, DEQ
(804) 698-4399

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 2008, and the amounts and sources of solid waste generated outside the Commonwealth.

The total amount of solid waste received at Virginia facilities during 2008 decreased by about 1.4 million tons (5.9 percent) from 2007. 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 533,000 tons (7.5 percent) to about 6.6 million tons. The total amount from within Virginia decreased by 842,000 tons to about 15.4 million tons.

Other findings of the report include:

Of the nearly 22 million tons of solid waste reported in 2008, about 15 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 5.1 million tons, a decrease of about 518,000 tons (9.2 percent). Maryland, New York, Washington, D.C., North Carolina and New Jersey accounted for 97.3 percent of all waste received from out-of-state sources.
Of the total solid waste reported in 2008, about 3.6 million tons (16.3 percent) were construction and demolition debris.
Of the total solid waste managed in Virginia in 2008, about 14.4 million tons (79.3 percent) were disposed of in landfills, about 2.2 million tons (11.9 percent) were incinerated and the rest was managed by other means, including mulching and recycling.

The full solid waste report is available on the DEQ web site at

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: June 08, 2009 at 10:34 am

Some fish illnesses and deaths observed in rivers, Virginia reports

May 29, 2009

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

Julia Dixon, DGIF
(804) 367-0991

RICHMOND, VA. -- Scattered reports of dead fish in Virginia's western rivers have been received since mid-May this year, and in some areas anglers and fish biologists are finding significant numbers of fish with lesions, according to the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Reports of dead fish and fish with lesions, similar to what has occurred in past years, have come in to DEQ and DGIF from these rivers:

North Fork of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County (from the New Market area downstream to beyond Woodstock).
Upper portions of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Rockingham County (mainly upstream of Elkton).
Lower sections of the North, Middle and South rivers in Augusta and Rockingham counties.
Upper James River near Buchanan in Botetourt County.

The number of reported fish kills has been small this year, as streams are just beginning to warm and waters have been high because of recent rains. As in other years, it is difficult to estimate the number of diseased or dead fish. In the affected rivers, the fish kills appear to be mild, with a few dead fish per mile in most areas. With the exception of the single report from the upper James River indicating a high percentage of fish with lesions, biologists generally have seen around 15 percent to 25 percent of fish with lesions.

Weekly observations and fish health evaluations are continuing this spring, and scientists are collecting water and fish samples from the Shenandoah and upper James rivers before, during, and after any disease or fish kill outbreaks.

Scientists recently have found a link between Aeromonas salmonicida a bacterium found in the diseased river fish and lesions and deaths of experimentally infected laboratory fish. A significant focus of current investigations is to determine the source of this bacterium and how it is transmitted, and to determine why certain fish appear to be more susceptible than others.

The kills are most severe among smallmouth bass and sunfish, but other types of fish also have been affected. Many of these fish develop skin lesions before dying. Other fish, though, have only fungal infections and many have died without any visible skin lesions. The fish kills have begun in the spring when water temperatures rise above the mid-50s and in past years have run from early April until mid-May.

The investigating agencies and the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force encourage the public to provide information on the location, number and type of fish found dead or sick in the Shenandoah and James river systems. Anyone with information is asked to call 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: May 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Virginia marine protected areas receive national recognition

May 11, 2009

Contact: Krystal Coxon, DEQ
(804) 698-4399

RICHMOND, VA. -- Seven sites in Virginia have received national recognition by being accepted into a new national system of marine protected areas.

The Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program at the Department of Environmental Quality along with two of the program's member agencies, the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Marine Resources Commission, nominated the areas for inclusion in the national system.

The seven Virginia sites are:

Blue Crab Sanctuary in the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay
Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve in Mathews County
Dameron Marsh Natural Area Preserve in Northumberland County
Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve in Northumberland County
Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve in Northampton County
False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach
Kiptopeke State Park in Northampton County

The natural area preserves and state parks are included because they contain protected intertidal zones (lands that are submerged at high tide and exposed at low tide) that are considered part of the marine environment. These sites were chosen because they meet national standards established through a science-based, public process that defines whether a marine protected area is eligible for inclusion in the new national system.

The Virginia sites are marine environments already permanently protected under Virginia laws and regulations. No new federal restrictions will be applied to the management of these sites. Rather, Virginia is being recognized for its existing efforts to manage these special marine environments.

The national system was launched by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior to enhance the effectiveness of marine protected areas across the country in conserving cultural resources, marine species, habitats and ecosystems by encouraging partnerships to address issues affecting the areas and improving public access to scientific information and decision-making about marine resources.

The Virginia sites make up 3.1 percent of the overall national system and cover and area of approximately 952 square miles. The full national list is available in the Federal Register at and at A map of the Virginia locations is available upon request from DEQ and at

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: May 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm

State Water Board issues largest-ever wetlands penalty

May 4, 2009

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The State Water Control Board has issued a $145,000 penalty against an Augusta County property owner for destruction of wetlands, the largest wetlands penalty ever imposed by the board.

The civil charge, approved in a consent order at the board's meeting April 27, 2009, cites Arthur J. Fisher for excavating in wetlands without a permit during construction of a house on Quarles Pond in Stuarts Draft. The excavation destroyed the ecological function of the wetlands at the pond, according to the Department of Environmental Quality, which investigated the incident and drafted the consent order.

DEQ said Fisher had been informed in 2003 that a Virginia Water Protection permit would be required before any construction activity took place that would affect the wetlands. However, a DEQ inspection in 2006 discovered extensive excavation work at the site, including unpermitted drainage of portions of the pond.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has called Quarles Pond the largest intact Shenandoah Valley sinkhole pond in Virginia, dating back 15,000 years. The wetland environment at the pond supported rare plants and insects. The consent order also requires Fisher to restore the wetlands at the pond to the extent feasible and to monitor progress for 10 years.

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: May 04, 2009 at 1:44 pm