IG of the Day: Virginia’s Impaired Waters

Click on map for larger image. Source: From the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s 2012 Water Quality Assessment Annual Report.

Virginia’s waters aren’t necessarily getting more polluted, but the Department of Environmental Quality is doing a better job of sampling Virginia’s rivers and streams, with the result that more dirty stretches of waterway are being found. This map shows the varying water quality across the state. Not much of it is pristine. Read the report.


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  1. For years and years, DEQ refused to actually inventory dirty waters. At one point, under the Allen administration, the EPA threatened to take over the job if DEQ continued to refuse to do the job.

    The reason was pretty simply. There are those who oppose the idea of listing dirty waters for fear that the public will actually get involved and start asking questions and demanding action.

    Bacteria varies on streams and there is a correlation between development and bacteria levels but I notice that one of the “causes” listed is the wild animals – but not as a consistent background level on all streams. Nope… some streams …in remote areas apparently have wild animal septic tanks because they do not bleed animal waste bacteria.

    Second, look at just how widespread Mercury contamination is and ask yourself why.

    Chances are that you are the reason if you are sitting next to a lamp. It’s the price we pay for cheap coal-generated electricity.

    Finally, I see fairly widespread PCBs almost as if it is due to air deposition like mercury is… makes me wonder…

    the document says that the listed impaired waters are okay to recreate in – as long as you don’t swallow water. Hmmm….. got kids?

    In fairness, there is also criteria for designated uses – places where Virginia can say that the “use” of river segments is not for recreation or even drinking water or other “clean” uses, but for disposal of waste.

    Most areas belong waste-water systems are so designated.

    Please also note that the bureaucracy has yet to come to grips with hormones (both human and animal) and prescription drugs which virtually every waste-water plant in existence in Va is putting into rivers with no restrictions or standards.

    And that’s a problem with the way we do business in terms of proportionality.

    We spend tons of money on cleanups, reducing bacteria and other effluents like nutrients but we essentially ignore things like mercury and drugs – which ultimately results in more regulations and more costs.

    Of course, if you listen to the GOP – these regulations are job killing and harmful.. and we’d probably be better off not having regulation nor dirty water lists which might beget them, as was Mr.Allen’s philosophy.

  2. I can’t tell anything from that map. I hate graphics with misleading scales, or derived, dimensionless units.

    6-9 what?

    And, no matter what is on that graphic, I will say it once again, even though Larry will never accept it: the “correct”, least damaging, amount of any pollutant is not zero.

  3. built in to the standards Ray, is “designated uses” which allows a water body to be designated for a use other than recreation, wildlife and drinking water.

    it’s a legitimate recognition that some uses that are needed are consumptive of the rivers.

    but it’s also a recognition that a “use” can be healthy within tolerances and not when tolerances are exceeded.

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