Sludge Watch ==> Virginia - Officials try to pinpoint source of river pollution
maureen.reilly at sympatico.ca
Sun Jun 18 11:07:23 EDT 2006
June 17, 2006
OFFICIALS TRY TO PINPOINT SOURCE OF JAMES RIVER POLLUTION
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
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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