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Official DEQ news releases.

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

Virginia investigators prepare for possible fish kills

April 27, 2009

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are directing ongoing scientific studies this year in preparation for potential fish kills. Spring 2009 investigations will focus on weekly observations, continued fish health evaluations and in-depth study of possible bacterial causes of the kills.

Since 2004, unexplained fish kills have occurred in the Shenandoah River basin. During 2007 and 2008 similar events took place in the upper James and Cowpasture rivers. No kills have been observed in these rivers in 2009, though April and May are the most likely time for occurrences.

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 generally have run from early April until mid-May.

A detailed summary of findings through the 2008 fish kill season is available on the DEQ website at Fish health studies indicate that fish in the affected rivers are subjected to multiple stresses and reveal significant damage to the skin, gills and internal organs. The fish being studied also contain a large number of parasites, but scientists have not been able to connect this condition directly to impairment or fish kills. Biological pathogens, or fish diseases, have received more attention in the past two years and suggest a strong relationship between certain fish bacteria and the springtime fish kills.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Fish Health Lab in Leestown, W. Va., 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. Scientists will continue to collect water and fish samples this spring from the Shenandoah and upper James rivers before, during, and after any disease or fish kill outbreaks.

State agencies and their partners have led multiple investigations into these fish kills. In 2005, DEQ and DGIF formed the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force, which includes university and government scientists, environmental groups, fishing guides, other state agencies and volunteer monitors – all with a common goal of finding the cause of the kills. This group has helped identify, conduct and evaluate research into possible causes of the fish kills.

Studies by state and federal scientists and university researchers have centered on water chemistry, fish diseases, and general health of fish and other aquatic life. Water quality studies have not identified any specific chemicals at levels that would be expected to cause the fish kills.

Many of the contaminants found in the rivers have not been studied, and there is no information on the levels at which they could affect aquatic organisms. A second group at USGS is studying whether combinations of contaminants could increase their strength, or whether they cause problems with immune system function that could help explain the fishes’ susceptibility to diseases. Scientists also are trying to determine whether there is a correlation among contaminants that could cause the intersex condition that is prevalent among smallmouth bass and sunfish.

Researchers have credited the public with providing significant assistance in the investigation. Many of the outbreaks were reported by fishermen, landowners and other river users. Knowing the timing and location of these events allows scientists to concentrate on the areas where fish kills are active. This information also allows DEQ and DGIF to collect current information on locations and severity of fish kills, and to share this information with the public through periodic updates on the agency websites.

DEQ and DGIF ask the public to continue to report observations of diseased or dead fish. Key information includes types and numbers of fish, location, and any unusual circumstances. Digital photographs are particularly helpful. 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 and photos also can be emailed to DEQ at

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: April 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

Virginia approves localities to receive federal stimulus funds for clean water projects

April 27, 2009

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The State Water Control Board has approved the final list of localities that will receive federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund for improving wastewater treatment plants and collection systems, Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced today.

"These projects will get under way very quickly," Governor Kaine said. "They will enable us to make significant improvements in water quality and to help localities with high unemployment rates put more people to work."

A total of $76.9 million in grants is available from the federal government for these projects, going to 27 localities from across Virginia that will begin making the improvements by September 2009.

The projects include $24.9 million for Lynchburg to continue its combined sewer overflow program, which will eliminate raw sewage overflows that enter the James River. Also included are 13 "green infrastructure" projects costing $16 million that will make other environmental improvements, such as water reuse and alternative energy initiatives.

The Department of Environmental Quality evaluated 294 requests, worth more than $1.3 billion, before submitting a recommendation to the water board. Specific criteria were used in DEQ's analysis, including anticipated environmental benefits, financial hardship and ability to begin the projects in the near future. A locality's unemployment rate also was a consideration.

"Unfortunately, only a limited amount of money is available for these projects," Governor Kaine said. "Virginia will continue working with localities to ensure that other wastewater treatment projects will be completed in the coming years."

In addition to increasing employment in numerous localities, the improvements will help reduce nutrient pollution – excess nitrogen and phosphorus – that wastewater plants discharge into Virginia waterways. Other benefits of the projects include elimination of combined and sanitary sewer overflows, collection of wastewater in areas where septic systems are failing, and encouraging wastewater reuse and use of alternative energy. The complete list of localities receiving federal stimulus money is available on the DEQ website at

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: April 27, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Winners of Governor's environmental excellence awards announced

April 2, 2009

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant, Jr., announced the 23 winners of the 2009 Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards on April 1, at the Environment Virginia 2009 Symposium in Lexington.

The awards recognize the significant contributions of environmental and conservation leaders in three categories: environmental projects, environmental programs and land conservation. They are given to businesses and industrial facilities, not-for-profit organizations, government agencies and individuals.

These entries were recognized as Gold Medal Winners in the Environmental Program category:

• The Philip Morris USA's Park 500 facility in Chester for its environmental management system.
• The Sustainability Park in Chester for building an infrastructure focused on a model of sustainability.
• The City of Roanoke for its "Clean and Green" public outreach campaign.
• The Town of Blacksburg for its comprehensive environmental management program.
• The Lynnhaven River NOW organization for its campaign to protect and restore the estuary.

These entries were recognized as Gold Medal Winners in the Environmental Project category:

• The Philip Morris USA's Park 500 facility in Chester for its innovative natural wastewater treatment system.
• The Dometic Corporation of Richmond for the development of the first commercially viable battery-powered heating and cooling system for idling trucks.
• The Virginia Department of Corrections for the Pamunkey Farm Cooperative Venture conservation and restoration project.

The City of Roanoke also received a Gold Medal in the Land Conservation category for its Carvins Cove Conservation Easement project.

Award winners were chosen based on criteria including to environmental benefit, stakeholder involvement, public outreach, transferability and innovativeness.

This year's awards were sponsored by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Manufacturers Association and Dominion.

Additional information on the Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards is available on the DEQ website at

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: April 02, 2009 at 11:58 am

Virginia issues 2007 report on chemical releases

March 19, 2009

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- Virginia industries reported that chemicals released on-site at facilities decreased by 4 percent in 2007, according to the latest Toxics Release Inventory produced by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Virginia industries reported 931.5 million pounds of chemicals managed on-site, transferred off-site or released, a 21.2 percent increase from the previous year. This is due mainly to an increase in on-site recycling activities and off-site transfers by Virginia facilities.

DEQ compiles toxic release inventory chemicals data from reporting facilities annually. The 2007 report, which contains the most recent data available, includes these findings:

• 63 million pounds of chemicals released on-site to the air, water and land (a 4.0 percent decrease from 2006).
• 88.9 million pounds of chemicals transferred off-site for treatment, recycling, energy recovery, or disposal (a 28.8 percent increase from 2006).
• 779.6 million pounds of chemicals managed on-site by treatment, recycling, or energy recovery (a 22.9 percent increase from 2006).

The report also includes data about releases of a group of chemicals known as persistent bioaccumulative toxics. These chemicals remain in the environment for long periods of time and can build up in living tissue. Releases of these persistent chemicals in 2007 totaled 291,265 pounds, a 25.2 percent decrease from 2006.

DEQ uses the TRI data to target facilities for projects to reduce pollution at the source. DEQ's Environmental Excellence Program uses incentives and assistance efforts to promote environmental stewardship beyond regulatory compliance. The goal of this initiative is to help develop more efficient technologies and business operations by reducing the amount of chemicals released to the environment and improving how the chemicals are managed.

The 2007 Toxics Release Inventory is available online at Information on releases from 2008 is due to DEQ for analysis this summer and will be available to the public in early 2010.

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: March 19, 2009 at 11:42 am

Nearly 20,000 tires removed from last known tire dump site in western Virginia

March 17, 2009

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is removing nearly 20,000 tires today from a site near Martinsville, the last known illegal tire dump in western Virginia.

DEQ's Waste Tire Program is working with contractors to remove the tires on Tuesday, March 17, 2009. This completes the cleanup of western Virginia sites that have been identified since 1993 and brings the total number of removed tires in this region to approximately 3.6 million.

The western region includes the cities of Lynchburg, Roanoke, Martinsville, Danville, Farmville and South Boston and surrounding counties and towns. Statewide, DEQ has removed 433 piles totaling more than 21 million tires since 1994; property owners have removed 678 smaller piles, totaling 1.7 million tires.

DEQ's Waste Tire Cleanup Program began with a statewide survey in 1993 to identify, quantify and certify tire dump sites. The program cleans up eligible tire dump sites on a priority basis, focusing first on the largest sites and then on smaller sites as funding is available.

Tires removed from dump sites are generally shred and used in place of gravel or sand in landfill applications such as drainage and cover materials. Cleaner waste tires can be chipped for other uses such as crumb rubber for recycled products or fuel chips.

To be eligible for the DEQ cleanup program, tire dump sites must have been created before 1994 or as a result of illegal dumping reported to local police or a sheriff’s office. Tire dump sites created in 1994 or later are the responsibility of the property owner. To report a pile that may be eligible for cleanup, contact the nearest regional DEQ office found at

To learn more about DEQ's Tire Waste Program, visit

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: March 17, 2009 at 7:05 am