South River/South Fork Shenandoah River Mercury Information

Electro Fishing

South River Science Team

Mercury was used by Du Pont Co. in Waynesboro as a catalyst in fiber production between 1929 and 1950. During that time, strict storage and disposal regulations did not exist, and mercury made its way to the South River. A serious contamination problem was discovered in the 1970s.

In a settlement between Du Pont and the State Water Control Board in 1984, Du Pont established a trust fund to support a 100-year monitoring program for mercury. This fund is managed by DEQ and has supported monitoring for fish, water, and sediments since that time. In 1984, scientists expected that the mercury levels would decline over time. However, information collected during the last 20 years indicates that levels are remaining stable, with no clear decreases over time.

In November 2000, Du Pont and DEQ agreed to voluntarily establish an interdisciplinary team of individuals from industry, government, citizens groups, academic institutions, and private research to revisit the issue of mercury contamination and its consequences. This group is called the South River Science Team. The science team and its members are involved in a number of ongoing studies that go well beyond the scope of DEQ’s original long-term monitoring effort. The group also ensures that the public is properly informed of risks associated with eating contaminated fish.

In December 2016, the Commonwealth and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed settlement to resolve natural resource damage claims stemming from the release of mercury.

South River/South Fork Shenandoah River Mercury Report, Revised June 2000

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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