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Official DEQ news releases.

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

DEQ releases Hopewell air quality study

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 23, 2009

Contact: Bill Hayden, DEQ
(804) 698-4447
wphayden@deq.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- Preliminary information from a new study indicates that most airborne chemicals in the city of Hopewell are safely below Virginia's long-term air quality standards, the Department of Environmental Quality announced today. DEQ's investigation is continuing with an analysis of whether two of the chemicals raise any concerns for human health.

"Our initial results show that levels of the chemicals acrolein and formaldehyde require a more thorough look," DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. "We expect a more complete picture when we finish the study of potential health concerns and whether they could affect Hopewell residents."

Air quality studies across the United States show that acrolein and formaldehyde levels in many parts of the country are higher than Virginia's standards. The concentration of these chemicals in Hopewell are not unusual compared with what many other urban and rural areas of the country experience, according to the DEQ report. These chemicals most often are produced during open burning and from vehicle emissions.

"Our primary goal is to protect people's health and the environment," Paylor said. "When we have obtained the information we need and the study is complete, DEQ will evaluate appropriate steps for reducing these and other chemicals in the air."

DEQ began the Hopewell air quality study in 2006 with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of DEQ's overall program to evaluate air quality throughout the Commonwealth. The study covered 67 chemicals and metals, and 96 percent of them were below Virginia's air quality levels of concern. DEQ worked closely with a stakeholder group from Hopewell to explain the design and conduct of the study, and the group members are familiar with the results.

As a result of the work related to this study, DEQ has placed another air monitor in Hopewell and is analyzing several more chemicals beyond what previously was studied. The preliminary Hopewell air quality study is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: February 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Virginia's litter and recycling programs show strength

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 20, 2009

Contact: Krystal Coxon, DEQ
(804) 698-4399
kdcoxon@deq.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- Local governments and volunteers, demonstrating strong support for litter and recycling programs, completed nearly 800,000 hours of litter and recycling activities in 2007-2008 across Virginia.

The Department of Environmental Quality's 2007-2008 litter and recycling annual report shows that more than 650 Virginian local government employees worked alongside volunteers for approximately 800,000 hours from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, under the state litter prevention and recycling grant program to complete litter cleanups, conduct anti-littering youth education programs and organize recycling programs.

"Virginia's local governments and residents are showing an extraordinary commitment to keeping Virginia clean," says DEQ Director David K. Paylor.

A total of 10,583 cleanup events were hosted throughout Virginia, using a total of 101,177 volunteers who cleaned up 38,745 cubic yards of litter. Nearly 2,500 presentations, workshops and other educational events for youth were conducted as part of youth education programs.

Three hundred local governments received approximately $1.8 million in funding from the state litter prevention and recycling grant program and exceeded matching funds with more than $8.1 million from other sources of funds and in-kind services.

The money for litter prevention and recycling grants is generated through three litter taxes paid by Virginia beer distributors, soft drink companies and retailers. DEQ disburses the litter and recycling tax revenues to localities that apply annually for the grant funding. The amount that each locality receives is proportional to the road miles and population of the jurisdiction.

To learn more about Virginia's litter prevention and recycling grant program and to read the 2008 annual report to the Litter Control and Recycling Fund Advisory Board, visit the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov/recycle/programs.html.

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: January 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

Virginia's recycling rate remains strong

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 24, 2008

Contact: Bill Hayden, DEQ
(804) 698-4447
wphayden@deq.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality's annual recycling rate report shows that Virginians' commitment to recycling remains strong with 38.5 percent of municipal and other solid wastes recycled in 2007.

DEQ used data from recycling rate reports submitted by the 74 solid waste planning regions in Virginia representing 325 Virginia cities, counties and towns. The percentage represents 3,637,933 tons of material recycled or reused.

"Recycling rates continue to be strong across Virginia," DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. "It is clear that Virginians are committed to recycling as a way of preserving our natural resources and minimizing the use of landfill space."

The Virginia annual recycling report provides an overview of the materials recycled, the amount of waste disposed, and a list of the recycling rate reported by each solid waste planning region in 2007. The report is available on DEQ's website at www.deq.virginia.gov/.

The recycling rate of 38.5 percent exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's national goal of 35 percent by 2010 and is above the 2007 national rate of 33.4 percent. The state's 2007 recycling rate grew slightly from the 2006 rate of 38.4 percent. Virginia showed an increase in recycling of plastics, metals, glass and used oil from 2006 to 2007.

DEQ's recycling program works closely with recycling program managers, as well as with local governments and solid waste planning regions to ensure that their recycling programs are able to meet or exceed the state's mandated recycling rates. Virginia has a two-tiered recycling mandate. Individual localities or solid waste planning regions with low population densities or high unemployment rates qualify for the 15 percent recycling level. All others must meet the 25 percent recycling rate.

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: November 24, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Fish kill task force evaluates results of latest studies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 18, 2008

Contact: Bill Hayden, DEQ
(804) 698-4447
wphayden@deq.virginia.gov

Julia Dixon, DGIF
(804) 367-0991
julia.dixon@dgif.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force met November 17, 2008, to review the latest research on the causes of unexplained fish kills in several Virginia river systems since 2003. The meeting included presentations and discussions of findings during 2008. Though researchers have not identified a cause, they are evaluating several significant findings.

The work plan for 2009 will be developed with input from the task force’s science subcommittee and should be finalized by early January. The general focus of work for 2009 will be on disease-causing organisms, fish health and water quality.

As researchers continue to gather valuable information, task force members are considering several theories. This includes the possibility of multiple stressors on fish populations that make the cause of the kills more complex than a single contaminant, virus or bacteria.

The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, co-chairs of the task force, set priorities earlier in 2008 for available funds and coordinated a number of investigations this year. For example, studies in 2008 included sampling before, during and after fish kills in the rivers experiencing those problems. The investigation also emphasized rivers where fish kills have not occurred, expanded lists of chemical analyses with a focus on storm flows, and fish health studies.

Here is a summary of the fish kill investigation findings to date:

Water quality and environmental conditions – DEQ monitored every two weeks from March through May at multiple sites in the Shenandoah, James and Cowpasture rivers, and several comparison streams, for metals. Dr. Dan Downey of James Madison University conducted a study on the South Fork Shenandoah River and a heavily farmed tributary, Cub Run, that evaluated physical and environmental conditions, metals, nutrients, organic chemical, and pesticides. This was done at frequent intervals before, during and after storm events between March and May 2008. The fish kills have occurred mostly during the spring months, starting when water temperatures reach about 59 degrees Fahrenheit in March and April, and ending when temperatures reach the mid- to upper 70s in mid-June. Fish kills appear to be connected to spawning periods for many of the fish species that have been affected. Water quality data from these studies and from extensive sampling during previous fish kill seasons have not identified any contaminants at levels that exceed water quality criteria or known levels of concern for toxic chemicals. This monitoring does not cover every possible water quality parameter, though it does include the most likely potential contaminants.

Analyses of "passive samplers" (imitation fish tissue) – Passive samplers were placed at multiple sites in the Shenandoah and Cowpasture rivers in spring 2007 by the Friends of the North Fork and DEQ. Additional samplers were deployed in spring 2008. These samplers imitate fish tissue and "accumulate" chemicals during a four- to six-week period and allow measurements of chemicals that are normally not detected in conventional water samples. A wide range of chemicals were detected and quantified, but no chemicals were found at levels equal to or above known water quality criteria at any sites.

Bottom-dwelling stream life – Dr. Reese Voshell of Virginia Tech led a multi-year study that evaluated invertebrate communities in the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah and a number of tributaries. Data analyses included comparisons with other large river systems, historical comparisons in the Shenandoah River, and indications whether areas with severe fish kills had corresponding harm to small creatures living on stream bottoms. None of the large river sites in the Shenandoah basin showed significant reduction in biological conditions. The health of small stream creatures showed no patterns that corresponded with areas of heavy fish kills. The data provided no evidence that toxic substances were present in amounts that would cause biological harm. In general, the presence of these creatures in the large river sections appears to be consistent with streams that have high levels of nutrients.

Fish health – Studies of fish health continued in 2008 by Dr. Vicki Blazer of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Dr. Don Orth of Virginia Tech and associates. Studies focused on fish kill areas in the Shenandoah, James and Cowpasture rivers and included comparison sites in the Rappahannock, New, North Fork Holston and other rivers. Fish were collected before, during and after fish kills. Specimens were examined externally and internally for lesions, general health and abnormalities of skin, gills and internal organs. In addition, parasites were identified and quantified, microscopic analysis was conducted on gills and internal organs, and blood chemistry was evaluated. As seen in previous years, male fish from the Shenandoah and Cowpasture rivers had a high incidence of immature female eggs in the testes, known as intersex. The studies suggest that a wide variety of parasites, bacteria and viruses caused infections in fish that died. It is not known whether fish kills and reproductive issues are linked.

Bacteria and viruses – In 2008, Dr. Rocco Cipriano of USGS conducted bacterial analyses on numerous specimens from fish kill and comparison sites before, during and after kills in the Shenandoah, James, Cowpasture and other rivers. Cultures were obtained from skin, gills and internal organs. The findings show that pre-kill fish had diverse types of bacteria, but no symptoms. Once the fish kills and symptoms such as skin lesions began, the dominant bacteria shifted to Aeromonas salmonicida. When fish kills ended in mid- to late June, the bacteria in fish from the rivers with fish kills returned to the diverse groups seen before the kills. Specimens examined from streams without fish kills did not appear to host Aeromonas salmonicida at any time, even when fish kills were occurring in other rivers. Aeromonas salmonicida causes furunculosis, a disease with symptoms consistent with those observed in dead and dying fish in the Shenandoah, Cowpasture and James rivers. However, the investigation has not determined whether the bacteria caused the fish kills or is related to them.

Fish kills mainly have affected smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish, though the incidence of fish deaths was relatively low in 2008. DEQ and DGIF continue to coordinate the investigation and efforts to obtain additional funding for future work.

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: November 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm

DEQ completes Virginia mercury study

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 15, 2008

Contact: Bill Hayden
(804) 698-4447
wphayden@deq.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality has completed its report to Governor Timothy M. Kaine and the Virginia General Assembly on the effects of mercury in the environment. The 2006 General Assembly requested the report to help determine whether additional steps should be taken to control mercury emissions in Virginia.

The study focuses on computer modeling of mercury entering the environment from coal-burning power plants and other industrial sources, and effects on people who eat mercury-contaminated fish.

"This study provides the most detailed look we have ever had at how mercury affects Virginians and their environment," DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. "This information will help inform our continuing efforts to control mercury pollution in the Commonwealth."

DEQ issued a contract to ICF Resources to analyze sources of mercury in the Commonwealth. The analysis shows that mercury from outside Virginia contributes to mercury contamination found in the state. Global and background sources are responsible for the single-largest amount, 74 percent, of mercury deposited in the state.

The study also examined mercury reductions anticipated from rules established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since the study began, a federal court has issued opinions vacating the rules. Mercury entering Virginia’s environment from the atmosphere, called mercury deposition, would decrease 20.4 percent by 2018 under these rules. Most of the reduction, 61 percent, would come from lower mercury emissions in surrounding states. About 13 percent of the reduction would come from sources within Virginia.

Discounting mercury from global and background sources, 54 percent of mercury deposition in Virginia comes from power plants in surrounding states, compared with 14 percent from power plants in Virginia.

The study also evaluated how reduced concentrations of mercury would affect the 13 existing fish consumption advisories for mercury in Virginia. If mercury reductions occurred in 2010 and 2018 under the federal rules, the advisory could be removed for all fish species in three of the water bodies and for at least one fish species in 11 of the water bodies. These changes likely would take years or decades to occur.

For a second part of the study, the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Environmental Studies conducted a fish consumption survey in areas of Virginia affected by mercury advisories. The survey, conducted in summer 2007, asked anglers on the James River below Richmond, and the Chickahominy, Pamunkey, Mattaponi and upper Piankatank rivers about fish-eating habits. The survey found that a significant percentage of anglers and their families may be exposed to additional mercury in their diets by eating mercury-contaminated fish from these waters.

VCU also analyzed the fish consumption data to determine potential health effects from eating mercury-contaminated fish on women of child-bearing age, and DEQ assessed possible economic impacts from those health effects. The full mercury study is on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov/.

From: Krystal Coxon

Sent: October 15, 2008 at 12:48 pm