Sludge Watch ==> Virginia - Officials try to pinpoint source of river pollution

Maureen Reilly maureen.reilly at sympatico.ca
Sun Jun 18 11:07:23 EDT 2006


http://www.dailypress.com/news/local/virginia/dp-va--jamesriverfoam0617jun17,0,6751659.story?coll=dp-headlines-virginia

Virginia News
June 17, 2006



OFFICIALS TRY TO PINPOINT SOURCE OF JAMES RIVER POLLUTION



Associated Press



RICHMOND, Va. - A foamy substance swirling in the James River near 
Richmond could be linked to high levels of phosphorus, which could mean 
that the waterway is being subjected to an unusually large amount of 
ecologically damaging pollution, state environmental officials said.



One sample taken earlier this month showed 1.9 parts of the nutrient per 
million parts of water, 190 times higher than the level expected in a 
healthy river, and 22 times higher than the past 10-year average.



"The bottom line is we don't know what's happening in the river right 
now," Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Bill Hayden said. 
Additional water samples were taken last week to help track down the 
pollution source; the results should be available soon, Hayden said.



Sources of phosphorus include fertilizer runoff from farms and yards, 
and wastewater discharges from factories and sewage-treatment plants. 
Some detergents also use phosphorus, which fuels the growth of plants 
and depletes the oxygen levels in the water, which in turn harms aquatic 
animals.



Health experts say high phosphorus poses no threat to people who swim in 
the river or drink city water, which comes from the James.



Many rivers and the Chesapeake Bay are polluted with phosphorus and 
nitrogen, which also comes from runoff and wastewater.



The foam is appearing daily in varying amounts, sometimes stretching 
from bank to bank, said Ralph White, director of the city's James River 
Park system. Some foam is natural on rivers, but White said he had never 
seen anything like this on the James.



Virginia Commonwealth University biology professor Paul Bukaveckas said 
the phosphorus reading was extraordinarily high, the kind of level 
expected to come right out of the pipe of a sewage-treatment plant 
without modern phosphorus controls.



"It does raise a concern about whether there is a new source (of 
pollution) or this is an old source that has somehow gotten worse," said 
Bukaveckas, an expert on river nutrient pollution.
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