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

VIRGINIA AIR QUALITY RULES FOR OZONE NOW PROVIDE GREATER HEALTH PROTECTION / Air pollution remains low overall, despite stricter standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2008

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- Under rules recently adopted by Virginia and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stricter ozone air quality standards now offer the strongest protection of human health in the Commonwealth’s history.

“It is important to understand that our air quality continues to improve across Virginia – it is not getting worse,” said David K. Paylor, Director of the Department of Environmental Quality. “But we are tightening the rules to ensure that people are exposed to smaller and smaller amounts of ozone pollution.”

EPA has revised the national ozone air quality standards based on new health information that demonstrates how ozone can lead to adverse health effects at lower concentrations than previously understood. As a result, the Air Quality Index and the air quality forecasts have been adjusted to reflect the new ozone standards.

The rules lower the amount of ozone in the air that is considered unhealthful for people susceptible to breathing difficulties. The new level is 76 parts per billion and above; previously, the level was 85 ppb.

Air Quality Action Days (Code Orange and Code Red) are now more likely to occur in Virginia between April and September, simply because air quality will reach those designations at lower ozone concentrations than before.

This already happened on April 18, 2008, when ozone did not meet the new, stricter standards in the Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads, Charlottesville and Roanoke areas; as well as Shenandoah National Park and Caroline, Fauquier, Rockbridge and Wythe counties. The air quality in Virginia has not suddenly deteriorated. Rather, the air quality forecasts are designed to give better protection of public health, based on the latest health studies and revised national standards.

“We recognize that meeting these new standards may be difficult in some areas,” Paylor said. “But DEQ will carefully evaluate the options before us and develop a program that leads to ongoing improvements in the air we breathe.”

DEQ will resume ozone forecasts each afternoon beginning April 30, 2008. The forecasts for ozone and fine particles are available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov/airquality. To subscribe to free email notification of air quality forecasts, go to DEQcast at www.deq.virginia.gov/lists. Air quality forecasts also are updated each weekday afternoon by 5 p.m. at (804) 698-4444 or toll-free in Virginia at (800) 592-5482, ext. 4444.


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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: April 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Virginia launches new air quality monitoring site for Charlottesville-Albemarle area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2008

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has opened a new ambient air monitoring site serving the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area. Located on the grounds of Albemarle High School, the site will test the air for ground level ozone and fine particles.

Ozone occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere and protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful rays. But ozone at ground level is unhealthful and is formed by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. The ozone analyzer takes hourly averages each year from April 1 through October 31.

The monitoring site has two samplers that monitor fine particles, those no larger than 2.5 microns in diameter (a human hair has a diameter of about 70 microns). One fine particle monitor takes a 24-hour sample every third day, and the other continuously records hourly averages. These small particles can be emitted directly from sources such as vehicle exhaust, power plants and forest fires, or they can form when gases from sources such as industries and vehicles react in the air.

Air quality information from the monitors will be available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.

Meteorological instruments to measure wind speed and direction will be installed soon. An additional monitor for larger particles also has been installed. This monitor is to be used as a teaching tool and is classified as an educational demonstration monitor.

Working in cooperation with Albemarle County public schools, the DEQ office of air quality monitoring in Glen Allen installed and outfitted the equipment. Staff at the DEQ Valley Regional Office in Harrisonburg will be responsible for operating and maintaining the site.


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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: April 16, 2008 at 10:51 am

Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards announced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2008

Contact:
Julia Wellman, DEQ
(804) 698-4399
jhwellman@deq.virginia.gov

Joe Croce, VMA
(804) 643-7489
jcroce@vamanufaturers.com

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant, Jr., announced the 33 winners of the 2008 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards on April 2 at the Environment Virginia 2008 conference 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, government agencies and individuals.

Three entries were recognized at the highest award level, the Governor’s Flag:

• Micron Technology in Manassas for its successful implementation of an environmental management system, which ensures best management practices and innovative technologies are deployed throughout the facility.

• City of Charlottesville for its environmental sustainability initiative to protect and maintain environmental resources and to minimize waste.

• Volvo Trucks North America’s New River Valley Plant in Dublin for its recycling project that reuses 70 percent of the facility’s wastewater.

Award winners were chosen based on criteria related to environmental scope, impact, management and protection; community outreach, involvement and access; and a record of compliance with environmental regulations.

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 Virginia Tech’s Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement.

Additional information on the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.

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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: April 03, 2008 at 1:46 pm

State agencies gear up for potential fish health issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 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 Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are directing numerous scientific studies and surveillance programs this spring in the western portion of Virginia in preparation for potential fish kills.

Unexplained fish kills and episodes of fish with sores and lesions have occurred during each of the last four springs in the Shenandoah River system. In 2007, similar events also occurred in the upper James and Cowpasture rivers.

The fish kills since 2004 have been unusual, affecting mainly adult smallmouth bass and sunfish. Slow fish die-offs have begun in early April and continued through May. Despite the efforts of many fish health and water chemistry experts, the causes of the fish kills remain unknown.

Studies by state and federal scientists and several university researchers during these fish kills have focused on water chemistry and the health of fish and other aquatic life. Water quality studies to date have targeted nutrients, ammonia and selected organic compounds, but they have not identified any specific chemicals at levels that would be expected to cause the fish kills.

Fish health findings suggest that multiple stressors may be involved, because the symptoms do not clearly indicate any single cause. Fish health and disease experts with the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cornell University and Virginia Tech have found gill, liver and kidney damage; large numbers of parasites; and signs of bacterial infection. Viral studies have ruled out the likely fish viruses. More detailed investigations focusing on biological sources of disease are planned for 2008.

Since 2004, 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, an open group of stakeholders, including university and government scientists, environmental groups, fishing guides, and volunteer monitors. This group identified a list of theories on possible causes of the fish kills and methodically reviewed studies to test those theories.

In 2007, DEQ contracted with fisheries experts Dr. Greg Garman of Virginia Commonwealth University and Dr. Don Orth of Virginia Tech to lead a research advisory committee of experts in chemistry, water quality, toxicology, soils science and agriculture. The committee is an independent advisory panel to DEQ and has recently completed a recommended work plan for 2008.

Based on recommendation from the committee and the Fish Kill Task Force, DEQ and DGIF have set priorities for available funds and are coordinating a number of investigations. Studies in 2008 will emphasize additional non-fish kill sites, expanded water quality chemical lists with a focus on storm flows, and multiple fish health investigations. Scheduled projects and lead investigators include:

• Expanded fish health study to evaluate organs, blood chemistry, parasites and tissue contaminants - Virginia Tech and USGS.

• Watershed and fish kill contaminant profile - Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

• Measuring pesticides, organic compounds and heavy metals in storm runoff - James Madison University.

• Measuring organic compounds in the river during the spring using passive samplers, devices which allow measurement of chemicals that are normally not detectable using conventional methods - DEQ and USGS.

• Biweekly analysis of heavy metal concentrations in the rivers during the spring - DEQ.

• Fish kill and fish behavior surveillance by volunteer citizen monitors - task force, state agencies and citizens.

• DEQ and DGIF investigators also are participating in a coordinated study with USGS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on additional fish health studies at several sites within the Potomac River watershed.

If any fish kills are observed this year, the task force encourages the public to provide information on the location, number and type of fish found dead or sick in the Shenandoah, Cowpasture and James river systems. Distressed fish are found mainly in eddies and shallow areas away from the main current.

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.

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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: March 28, 2008 at 9:57 am

Virginia issues 2006 report on chemical releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2008

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- Virginia industries reported that chemicals released on-site increased by more than 18 percent in 2006, according to the latest Toxics Release Inventory produced by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Most of this increase can be attributed to one facility that reported a significant change in water releases. This year the business, Alliant Techsystems of Radford, corrected its method of calculating discharges to water.

Facilities also transfer chemicals off-site or manage them on-site for safe treatment or disposal. The amount of chemicals transferred off-site decreased by more than 20 percent, and the amount managed on-site increased by about 40 percent from 2005. Most of the change in on-site management is due to the increase of recycling activities at one facility.

The total amount of chemicals reported as released on-site, transferred off-site or managed on-site increased by about 29 percent from 2005.

“Although facilities are managing more chemicals effectively with on-site recycling activities, they also are reporting more chemical releases,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “These increases do not reflect the downward trend we have grown accustomed to in Virginia. Though many of the chemicals are permitted through the Commonwealth’s regulatory programs, it is imperative that Virginia businesses and industry continue to reduce the amount of chemicals entering the environment.”

The report also includes 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 2006 totaled 389,153 pounds, a 78.4 percent increase from 2005. A significant portion of the increase came from facilities operated by the federal government. Increases were reported for lead, lead compounds and polycyclic aromatic compounds.

The 2006 report, which contains the most recent data available, includes this information:

• The amount of chemicals transferred off-site (to wastewater treatment facilities, or for recycling, energy recovery or disposal) – 69 million pounds, down 20.8 percent from 2005.

• The amount of chemicals managed on-site (through treatment, recycling or energy recovery) – 634.2 million pounds, up 40.4 percent.

• The amount of chemicals recycled on-site – 441.6 million pounds, up 26 percent. About 291 million pounds of this were reported by Honeywell International in Colonial Heights as recycled Freon.

• Total on-site releases – about 66.3 million pounds, up 18.6 percent.

• On-site releases to the air  42 million pounds, up 1.9 percent.

• On-site releases to water  19.5 million pounds, up 96.9 percent. About 13.5 million pounds of this were reported as a recalculation by Alliant Techsystems in Radford.

• On-site releases to land  4.9 million pounds, up 0.99 percent.

• The report also contains rankings by facility, type of industry and locality on the release, transfer and management of chemicals.

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 2006 Toxics Release Inventory is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov/sara3/. Information on releases from 2007 is due to DEQ for analysis this summer and will be available to the public in early 2009.

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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: March 26, 2008 at 11:03 am