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Official DEQ news releases.

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

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

Free teacher kits on land conservation available

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2008

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- Love-A-Tree activity kits are available for free to teachers from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The packets include a teacher resource guide with lesson plans and activities on land conservation and stewardship.

The lesson plans focus on three main concepts: the importance of land conservation, threats to the protection of open space and land management. The kit was designed for middle school teachers, but it can be adapted for upper elementary or high school students.

In April 2006, Governor Timothy M. Kaine set a goal to protect 400,000 acres of land. Benefits of this goal include preserving water quality, providing additional opportunities for recreation, and preserving wildlife habitat and historic landscapes. The kits highlight these benefits through the lesson plans.

The Love-A-Tree kit is a Virginia Resource Use Education Council project with special support from International Paper, the Virginia Office of Environmental Education at DEQ, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Forestry and the Department of Transportation. Employees at the International Paper mill in Franklin also volunteered to assemble the materials into 3,000 kits.

To request a kit, contact Stephanie Feaser at DEQ by email at srfeaser@deq.virginia.gov and include a mailing address. For questions regarding the content, contact Kris Jarvis at DEQ by email at kdjarvis@deq.virginia.gov. Additional information about the Love-A-Tree kits and Virginia Naturally is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.

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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: February 06, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Virginia issues recycling report for 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2007

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

VIRGINIA ISSUES RECYCLING REPORT FOR 2006

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has released its annual report on recycling by Virginia localities. The report includes information from localities on the percentage and type of waste recycled in 2006.

The statewide recycling rate for 2006 increased to 38.4 percent from 32.2 percent in 2005. About 86 percent of localities and regional waste management areas achieved the state recycling rates, compared with 61 percent in 2005.

“The increase in recycling and the number of localities meeting the recycling rates reflects the continued support by Virginians for recycling in their communities,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “As a result of these efforts, less trash will go into our landfills, and we will conserve energy and important natural resources.”

Additional recycling and the use for the first time of recycling credits contributed to the increase. Localities could earn credits by including the amount of materials recycled or reused that typically are not included in household recycling. These materials include recycling residue and industrial byproduct wastes. Credits also could be earned by adding the amount of solid waste reused, such as office furniture donated to charities, and the amount of construction and demolition debris and industrial waste recycled.

In addition, localities could add 2 percentage points to their recycling rates if they have a waste reduction program, which could include home composting efforts and improvements in management practices that minimize the amount of waste created.

Other findings of the report include:

• Localities recycled or reused about 3.7 million tons of material.
• The percentage of paper, metal, plastics, glass and other “principal recyclable materials” that was recycled increased 11 percentage points from 2005.
• The percentage of waste tires, used oil, electronics and other materials that was recycled increased 11 percentage points from 2005.

Ten areas did not meet the state recycling rate in 2006, compared with 29 in 2005. For the areas that did not meet the recycling rate, DEQ will require the jurisdiction to prepare a recycling action plan to identify necessary changes or improvements to their programs.

State law requires that most localities or regional waste management areas in Virginia recycle at least 25 percent of waste generated. However, each locality or region with a low population density or high unemployment rate is required to meet a minimum recycling rate of 15 percent.

The report is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.

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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: December 13, 2007 at 12:41 pm

DEQ, VCU develop scholarship program for agency employees earning master’s degree

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2007

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality has formed a learning partnership with the Center of Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University to promote higher education for DEQ employees beyond just the Richmond area.

“This kind of investment in education by a state agency is a first in the Commonwealth,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “It offers many benefits to our employees, the agency and VCU. By promoting educational opportunities for the environmental professionals at DEQ, we expect to develop a better-informed workforce that will strengthen Virginia’s efforts to protect the environment.”

Most classes will be offered via distance learning using DEQ’s videoconferencing equipment, though some classes will be traditional face-to-face lectures. The course work will lead to a Master of Environmental Studies degree.

“VCU Life Sciences is very pleased to partner with DEQ on this unique program, which leverages distance-learning technologies and a terrific faculty to provide DEQ employees across the Commonwealth with access to graduate-level instruction in environmental science and policy,” said Dr. Greg Garman, Director of the VCU Center for Environmental Studies.

For the 2007-08 academic year, seven DEQ employees are participating – two from Richmond, two from Roanoke, and one each from Virginia Beach, Lynchburg and Harrisonburg.

Under the partnership agreement, DEQ will provide scholarships to selected employees for 75 percent of the costs for tuition. To be eligible for the program, participants must be employed by the state in a classified position for at least one year. Participants must meet all VCU admission requirements, must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 throughout the course of study and must enroll for at least six graduate credits each academic year.

All students in the master’s program are eligible for scholarships made possible by a gift from Mrs. Inger Rice, who donated to VCU an ecologically rich, 340-acre parcel of land on the tidal James River southeast of Richmond. VCU Life Sciences, including the Center for Environmental Studies, uses the property for research, education and outreach activities.

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From: Julia Wellman

Sent: October 18, 2007 at 11:09 am