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

Virginia issues 2008 water quality report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2008

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- Virginia’s 2008 water quality report, released today by the Department of Environmental Quality, provides detailed information on more than 1,100 watersheds in the Commonwealth.

“This report brings the total amount of assessed watersheds in Virginia to 95 percent,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “This is the most complete picture we’ve ever had of water quality problems in Virginia.”

The draft 2008 Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report contains a water quality assessment from January 2001 to December 2006 and the statewide list of impaired waters. DEQ is seeking public comment on the report before it becomes final.

DEQ used a watershed-based assessment approach, as supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, of 1,247 small watersheds of similar size to enable a meaningful comparison of water quality over time. 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. This report contains the first six-year assessment of watersheds. The agency has assessed 95 percent – or 1,188 – of 1,247 watersheds since the 2002 report. Findings include:

• 191 watersheds (15 percent of the total) have no impaired waters identified, meaning water quality supports some or all six designated uses – aquatic life, fish and shellfish consumption, swimming, public water supplies and wildlife.
• 514 watersheds (41 percent) have one or two impaired waters, meaning the waters are affected by pollution or natural conditions.
• 340 watersheds (27 percent) have three to five impaired waters.
• 133 watersheds (11 percent) have six to nine impaired waters.
• 69 watersheds (6 percent) have 10 or more impaired waters.

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 this report:

• About 5,600 miles of rivers and streams, 18,200 acres of lakes and reservoirs, and 120 square miles of estuaries have high water quality that supports some or all six designated uses.
• About 10,600 miles of rivers and streams, 94,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs, and 2,200 square miles of estuaries are impaired.
• Sufficient information was not available on about 34,800 miles of streams and rivers, and 2,700 acres of lakes and reservoirs.
• 100 percent of estuaries were assessed for the 2008 report.

“As we have seen in past years, we found more waters that qualify as impaired because we are assessing new waters,” Paylor said.

Excess bacteria levels are the cause of 57 percent of new impaired waters, followed by low oxygen levels, which account for 18 percent of new impairments.

This year DEQ has added about 1,100 miles of streams and rivers, 3,300 acres of lakes, and less than half a square mile of estuaries to the impaired waters list. The addition of these waters will require Virginia to develop a total of 1,677 cleanup plans when they are added to the previous list of impaired waters.

DEQ invites public comment on the contents of the report until July 25, 2008, at 5 p.m. A public briefing will be held at the DEQ central office in Richmond on June 24 at 7 p.m. and shown via teleconference for the public at every DEQ regional office:

• DEQ Valley Regional Office, 4411 Early Road, Harrisonburg.
• DEQ West Central Regional Office, 3019 Peters Creek Road, Roanoke.
• DEQ Tidewater Regional Office, 5636 Southern Blvd., Virginia Beach.
• DEQ South Central Regional Office, 7705 Timberlake Road, Lynchburg.
• DEQ Piedmont Regional Office, 4949-A Cox Road, Glen Allen.
• DEQ Southwest Regional Office, 355 Deadmore St., Abingdon.
• DEQ Northern Regional Office, 13901 Crown Court, Woodbridge.

The draft 2008 water quality report is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov/wqa. Written comments on the report should be sent to Darryl M. Glover, DEQ water quality monitoring and assessment manager, or by email attachment at dmglover@deq.virginia.gov 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: June 16, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Fish kills have developed more slowly in 2008, Virginia reports

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 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. -- Fish kills are occurring in Virginia rivers again this year but have developed more slowly than in past years, according to ongoing studies by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The severity of the kills in the Shenandoah River watershed may be more moderate this year, though fish kills in the upper James River watershed appear similar to those in 2007, the agencies reported today.

Fish kills and fish with lesions have been observed in the upper James River and some tributaries, including the Jackson and Cowpasture rivers. DGIF sampling on these rivers has confirmed recent anglers’ reports that 25 percent to 30 percent of fish have lesions.

There have been no problems reported on the mainstem Shenandoah River, though the upper North and South Forks of the Shenandoah have seen low numbers of affected fish this year. The sections of both forks that experienced kills in past years are reporting greatly improved catches this spring.

Though the fish kills each year apparently have followed the onset of warmer water temperatures during the spring, no cause for the fish deaths and lesions has been identified. The kills have not occurred after June in previous years. The Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force, chaired by DEQ and DGIF, began extensive investigations into the problem in 2005.

The number of kills began to increase this spring after stream temperatures rose in late May. Investigators have collected water and fish samples before and during the fish kills, and the same type of sampling has been conducted at other streams – in rivers with similar fish species but no fish kills. Laboratory processing of these samples may take several months.

Here is a summary of fish problems reported in 2008:

James River and tributaries

• The upper James River began showing signs of ailing fish in early April. Numbers of dead fish and fish with lesions – mostly smallmouth bass and sunfish – have increased since stream temperatures increased and stayed warm. Anglers are reporting that fishing remains slow, and many are seeing numerous dead fish on each trip. They also are seeing lesions regularly on the live fish they catch.

• For the first time, the Jackson River is experiencing fish kills. Anglers on the lower Jackson downstream of Covington are providing reports similar to those on the James. Fewer reports have been received from the Jackson than from the James, possibly because there are fewer fishermen on the Jackson.

• The Cowpasture River has generated fewer reports than last year, but the reports all include some lesions and dead fish.

• Craig Creek, a tributary of the James at Eagle Rock, has seen a small number of reports of dead fish and lesions. Fish kills have not been reported on this stream in past years.

Shenandoah River, and North and South Forks

• No problems have been reported this year on the mainstem Shenandoah River, downstream of Front Royal.

• Compared to past years, fairly low numbers of dead fish have been reported on the North and South Forks. Lesion rates of 10 percent to 20 percent have been reported in the past several weeks, primarily upstream of the Mount Jackson-Edinburg area on the North Fork and upstream of Elkton on the South Fork.

• Anglers on most sections of the Shenandoah are reporting excellent success and few fish with visible problems. In particular, the lower North Fork from Woodstock to the mouth is producing very good catches this year. The South Fork also is supporting excellent catches in areas that previously experienced fish kills. Sunfish and rock bass, whose numbers were reduced during the kills, appear to be recovering well.

DEQ and DGIF have set priorities for available funds and are coordinating a number of investigations this year. For example, studies in 2008 include sampling before, during and after fish kills in the rivers experiencing those problems. The investigation also is emphasizing rivers where fish kills have not occurred, expanded lists of chemical analyses with a focus on storm flows, and multiple fish health investigations.

The investigating agencies and the 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 fishreports@deq.virginia.gov.

From: Bill Hayden

Sent: June 13, 2008 at 11:00 am

Virginia issues solid waste report for 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2008

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

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 2007, and the amounts and sources of solid waste generated outside the Commonwealth.

The total amount of solid waste received at Virginia facilities during 2007 decreased by about 1.8 million tons from 2006. 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 134,000 tons (1.8 percent) to about 7.1 million tons. The total amount from within Virginia decreased by 1.6 million tons (9 percent) to about 16.2 million tons.

Other findings of the report include:

• Of the nearly 23.4 million tons of solid waste reported in 2007, about 15.9 million tons (67.9 percent) were municipal solid waste, which is trash from households and businesses.

• The total amount of municipal solid waste generated outside Virginia was 5.6 million tons, a decrease of about 137,000 tons (2.4 percent). Maryland, New York, Washington, D.C., North Carolina and New Jersey accounted for 96.8 percent of all waste received from out-of-state sources.

• Of the total solid waste reported in 2007, about 4.3 million tons (18.5 percent) were construction and demolition debris.

• Of the total solid waste managed in Virginia in 2007, about 16 million tons (82.4 percent) were disposed of in landfills, about 2.1 million tons (11 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 www.deq.virginia.gov.

From: Bill Hayden

Sent: June 12, 2008 at 10:44 am

DEQ revises air quality forecast

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2008

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality has corrected the air quality forecast issued for May 27, 2008, in Richmond and Hampton Roads. Air quality today will be moderate, or Code Yellow.

On May 23, DEQ’s forecast for Memorial Day weekend called for unhealthy air quality on Monday and Tuesday. A new forecast was developed Sunday that called for moderate air quality. However, DEQ’s computer system was not working properly during the weekend. As a result, DEQ was unable to issue the revised forecast and a notification about the change.

From: Julia Wellman

Sent: May 27, 2008 at 10:53 am

Virginia DEQ reorganizes staff to address budget shortfall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2008

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is initiating a staff reorganization to streamline operations and meet a funding shortfall, DEQ Director David K. Paylor announced today.

“During the past two months, I have studied a number of ways to enable DEQ to continue providing core services without adversely affecting our mission and the dedicated staff who carry it out,” Paylor said.

“DEQ’s strategic plan calls for periodic review of the efficiency of our programs, and conducting the evaluation this year has enabled us to look for opportunities to improve and streamline operations – without sacrificing services to Virginia citizens,” he said. “The bottom line is that these changes make good organizational sense for DEQ and put us in a position to continue to do our jobs well.”

Because of a drop in funding that DEQ normally receives from several sources, DEQ must address a $1.2 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. DEQ will take these steps to make up the shortfall:

• Elimination of three upper-management positions. The director of the Water Resources Division and the director of the South Central Regional Office are retiring. Their positions, as well as the vacant policy director position, will be eliminated.

The work of the South Central Regional Office in Lynchburg will not be affected. The office and staff will become part of the regional operation directed from Roanoke. This consolidated region will have one regional director and two deputy regional directors.

The Water Resources Division will become part of the Water Division, and its work will not change. DEQ will continue its strong emphasis on water resources, especially the important issues of ground water withdrawal permits and water supply planning.

• Elimination of the DEQ Small Business Assistance Program, which helps small businesses meet the requirements of state air regulations. Though this program provides significantly more service than required under Virginia law, the small business assistance grants it previously administered no longer exist. “The funding for this program can be used more effectively to support the top-priority activities of DEQ’s Air Division,” Paylor said.

The organizational changes affect nine DEQ employees. Eight of them are eligible for retirement and therefore may receive enhanced benefits under Virginia’s Workforce Transition Act. The ninth person will have an opportunity to take another DEQ position. In addition, DEQ is eliminating five currently vacant positions.

Another operational change, unrelated to the budget shortfall, is the formation of the Office of Regulatory Affairs. The office will combine the staffs that draft air, water and waste regulations. This will enable DEQ to consolidate the management of regulatory development, improve consistency in dealing with the regulatory boards, and address areas of overlap among the air, water and waste programs.

These reorganization efforts are in addition to the 6 percent reductions DEQ implemented earlier in 2008 and another 1.5 percent reduction the state budget requires by June 2008. Paylor noted that all the reductions make DEQ responsible for continuing to be more efficient while minimizing the impacts on the DEQ staff and the agency’s environmental protection work.

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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: May 06, 2008 at 2:26 pm