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Virginia declares drought watch for Middle James, Roanoke and Shenandoah regions

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2017

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- In response to existing conditions and to increase public awareness of the potential for a significant drought event, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued a drought watch advisory for the Middle James, Roanoke River and Shenandoah drought evaluation regions.

The affected localities and public water suppliers in the Middle James drought evaluation region include Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Chesterfield, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, Nelson, Powhatan and Prince Edward counties, and the cities of Charlottesville, Colonial Heights, Hopewell, Lynchburg, Petersburg and Richmond.

The affected localities and public water suppliers in the Roanoke River drought evaluation region include Bedford, Campbell, Charlotte, Franklin, Halifax, Henry, Mecklenburg, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Roanoke counties, and the cities of Danville, Martinsville, Roanoke and Salem.

The affected localities and public water suppliers in the Shenandoah drought evaluation region include Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester.

The drought watch advisory previously issued for the Northern Piedmont drought evaluation region remains in effect.

A drought watch advisory is intended to increase awareness of conditions that are likely to precede a significant drought event and to facilitate preparation for a drought. This advisory is being issued because drought watch indicators in the state’s Drought Assessment and Response Plan have been met.

According to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, an interagency group representing state and federal agencies, the primary factors contributing to the declaration of the drought advisory are:

-- Precipitation totals are less than 75 percent of normal over the past 90 days and less than 25 percent of normal over the last 30 days across much of the areas covered by the Middle James, Roanoke River and Shenandoah regions.

-- Stream flows are lower than 75 percent to 95 percent of recorded flows, indicating a moderate to severe hydrologic drought -- a period of below-average water content in streams, aquifers, lakes and soils.

-- Groundwater levels are lower than 75 percent to 95 percent of previously recorded September and October levels.

DEQ is sending notifications to all local governments, public water works and private sector water users in the affected areas, and is requesting that they prepare for the onset of a drought event by developing or reviewing existing water conservation and drought response plans. Through the drought watch advisory, Virginia is encouraging localities, public and private water suppliers, and self-supplied water users in the affected localities to voluntarily take these steps to help protect current water supplies:

-- Minimize nonessential water use.

-- Review existing or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take conservation actions consistent with those plans.

-- Include water conservation information on local websites and distribute water conservation information to the public as broadly as possible.

-- Continue monitoring the condition of public waterworks and self-supplied water systems in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.

-- Impose water use restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions.

-- Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.

The next stage after a drought watch would be a "drought warning," which would be issued if conditions warrant. Drought warning responses are required when the onset of a significant drought event is imminent. Water conservation and contingency plans that are already in place or have been prepared during a drought watch stage would begin to be implemented. Water conservation activities at this drought watch stage generally would be voluntary. This does not preclude localities from issuing mandatory restrictions if appropriate.

Statewide information on the current drought status is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.

State Water Control Board meeting dates announced

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2017

Contact: Ann Regn
(804) 698-4442
ann.regn@deq.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- The State Water Control Board plans to hold two meetings in December to consider additional Section 401 water quality certification conditions for the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

Each meeting is scheduled to last about two days. On the first day of each meeting, those who made oral or written comments during the public comment period will have an opportunity to sign up to speak to the board under the board's policy for public participation. The official agenda containing more details will be available in early November.

The schedule for the meetings is:

-- Mountain Valley Pipeline. 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, December 6, 2017, and Thursday, December 7, 2017. Location: Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA 23222.

-- Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 9:30 a.m., Monday, December 11, 2017, and Tuesday, December 12, 2017. Location: Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA 23222.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will present a summary of the public comments it received and will make its recommendations to the board on the proposed additional conditions at each meeting. Also at each meeting, the board may approve, deny or amend the recommendations.

Comment period on proposed pipelines has closed; DEQ now evaluating public comments

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 23, 2017

Contact: Ann Regn
(804) 698-4442
ann.regn@deq.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- The public comment period on the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline additional Section 401 water quality conditions is now closed and is not being extended.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has received about 20,000 comments, including technical comments and reports, signed petitions, general comments about the pipelines and more. At this time, DEQ is focused on reviewing the comments received. Each one will be reviewed and considered by DEQ.

When DEQ has completed its review and prepared a summary of the comments, DEQ will prepare draft responses to the comments and recommendations for the State Water Control Board's consideration at a meeting this fall.

Recreation advisory lifted for Tinker Creek

By Jennifer.Underwood@deq.virginia.gov (Jennifer Underwood) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

RICHMOND, VA. The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have updated the information available on the status of Tinker Creek in Botetourt County following a fish kill on July 29.

On Monday, August 7th, DEQ water monitoring staff collected additional water samples from Tinker CreekSampling locations ranged from the vicinity of the spill downstream to the Route 24 bridge across Tinker Creek near the confluence with the Roanoke River.

Water samples were analyzed by the Department of General Services, Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. Results showed no evidence of the spilled chemical, Termix 5301.

Based upon the results of this latest round of water samples, the Virginia Department of Health is lifting the ban on recreational activities in Tinker Creek. For information on safe swimming in recreational waters please visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

Recreation advisory lifted for Tinker Creek

By Jennifer.Underwood@deq.virginia.gov (Jennifer Underwood) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

RICHMOND, VA. The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have updated the information available on the status of Tinker Creek in Botetourt County following a fish kill on July 29.

On Monday, August 7th, DEQ water monitoring staff collected additional water samples from Tinker CreekSampling locations ranged from the vicinity of the spill downstream to the Route 24 bridge across Tinker Creek near the confluence with the Roanoke River.

Water samples were analyzed by the Department of General Services, Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. Results showed no evidence of the spilled chemical, Termix 5301.

Based upon the results of this latest round of water samples, the Virginia Department of Health is lifting the ban on recreational activities in Tinker Creek. For information on safe swimming in recreational waters please visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

Update on status of Tinker Creek

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 4, 2017

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have updated the information available on the status of Tinker Creek in Botetourt County following a fish kill on July 29.

-- The agencies are continuing their recommendation that people stay away from Tinker Creek, from just west of Route 11/Lee Highway, across from Southern States Cooperative in Cloverdale, downstream to the mouth of Tinker Creek at the Roanoke River.

-- Water test results have been analyzed and show a very low amount of the chemical Termix 5301 in the creek. This amount of the chemical is not considered harmful.

-- Additional water samples will be collected Monday, August 7, and results are expected later in the week. A decision will be made then as to whether the advisory on Tinker Creek should remain.

-- DEQ has completed its count of fish that died as a result of the spill. The total is 40,198, which includes sunfish, rock bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, darters, multiple species of minnow, margined madtoms, bullhead catfish and suckers. Though there have been a few larger fish kills in Virginia, this is considered a significant incident.

-- The company responsible for the spill, Crop Production Services, has continued to cooperate fully with DEQ and has taken numerous actions to address the fish kill.

Tinker Creek fish kill: questions and answers

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2017

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

-- Where was the fish kill?

The kill began along a tributary to Tinker Creek in Cloverdale, and continued downstream into Roanoke County. DEQ biologists determined that the downstream extent of the kill was between Clearwater Avenue and Hollins Road in Cloverdale.

-- What caused the fish kill?

An agricultural-use chemical leaked from a container on the property of Crop Production Services located at 218 Simmons Drive in Cloverdale. Rain washed an estimated 165 gallons of the chemical into Tinker Creek.

-- What was the chemical?

The chemical, Termix 5301, is a type of surfactant (detergent-like substance) that is added to herbicide and pesticide products before application. The chemical is not a herbicide or a pesticide.

-- Is the creek safe for residents to use now?

Residents should continue to avoid use of the creek until further notice.

-- How will you know when the creek is safe for residents to use?

The creek is being monitored for the presence or absence of chemicals. Information will be communicated to residents once the creek is safe for recreation.

-- Is there an elevated health risk to the public following this leak?

At this time the chemical release has been contained, and there are no reports of public exposure. Only those individuals who came into direct contact with the chemical or were in the immediate area of the creek would have a potentially elevated risk of exposure. State and local agencies continue to monitor the situation.

-- What should I do if I'm concerned about potential exposure?

The chemical may pose a health risk only at high concentrations. It may be harmful if swallowed or touches the skin; it may cause skin burns and eye damage. If you are concerned about potential exposure, contact your physician, the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) or the Roanoke City Health Department (540-283-5050).

-- What caused the container to leak?

The container had a small puncture, about one-third of the way from the bottom of the tank. The cause of the damage to the container is under investigation.

-- Why were residents told to avoid Tinker Creek?

Early in the incident, the cause of the fish kill was not known. Residents were advised to avoid Tinker Creek out of an abundance of caution and to allow the response and investigation to proceed.

-- I have a well located close to Tinker Creek. Is my well at risk due to this spill?

Risk to wells along Tinker Creek is extremely low. This is because water in Tinker Creek originates from surface runoff (rain) and from groundwater that discharges from the banks of the creek (seeps). This is how creeks and rivers continue to flow between rain events. Wells are, in general, at greater risk from oil and chemical spills occurring on the land in proximity to the well.

-- Will I know if my well is impacted? What will happen if my well becomes contaminated?

Unless a well is located close to Tinker Creek and is already impacted by surface water, it should not be affected by this release. Wells that may be affected would be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

-- How many fish were killed?

Surveys conducted by biologists have not determined yet how many fish were killed. Initial estimates are that the number may be in the tens of thousands. This includes all sizes and types of fish, including sunfish, rock bass and smallmouth bass, large suckers, and many smaller species such as minnows and darters.

-- What will happen to all the dead fish?

Fish kills, even large ones, occur due to natural causes as well. The fish will begin to decompose and also will float downstream, which likely will lead to several days of unpleasantness along Tinker Creek. However, the stream will recover from the kill and life will return.

-- Were other animals killed?

Yes, there were dead crayfish. The investigation team will note if any other animals were affected.

-- How will this chemical be cleaned up?

In the area where the spill occurred, remaining product is being removed and soils contaminated by the product are being excavated and disposed of. The product that entered Tinker Creek is unrecoverable because it mixes with the water. DEQ returned to check the stream on Sunday, July 30, and the foaminess and cloudy appearance caused by the product had almost completely disappeared. Some residual foam may be noticeable in areas where the stream goes over riffles, rapids and dams, as the material mixes with the air and water.

-- My pet drank or swam in Tinker Creek when there were dead fish present. What should I do?

Where the material was present in the water, the stream exhibited a cloudy appearance and heavy white foam. Bathing with soap and clean water should remove the material from the skin. Pet owners should contact their veterinarians if they have reason to believe the pet was exposed and shows signs of illness. Pets and livestock should never be allowed to drink directly from a stream, as they run a similar risk of contracting illness from untreated surface water as humans do.

-- Who is responsible for cleanup?

The company accepted responsibility for the release and hired a hazardous materials cleanup contractor. All of the recoverable material and contaminated water and soil that were identified was removed by the contractor before the end of the day on Saturday. Other areas have been sampled, and additional cleanup will be done if the material is found elsewhere.

-- What is DEQ doing now and in the future?

DEQ will continue to focus on water quality monitoring and overseeing the cleanup. DEQ may determine that enforcement action is appropriate as the investigation proceeds.

-- What other agencies are involved with the situation and what are their roles?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for assessment of damages to natural resources and the presence of federally listed threatened and endangered species.

-- What are the long-term impacts?

Where the material was present in the water, the stream exhibited a cloudy appearance and moderate to heavy white foam. DEQ checked the stream at more than a dozen locations, from near the mouth at the Roanoke River, to above the confluence with the impacted tributary at Route 11 in Cloverdale. At almost all locations, the appearance of the stream had returned to normal for this time of year. Once the material is diluted and flushed downstream, no long-term impacts to the stream are anticipated. It ultimately may take several years to return to normal, but the stream will recover and aquatic life will repopulate the affected areas.

Location change announced for one Atlantic Coast Pipeline public hearing

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2017

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The location for the August 14, 2017, public hearing on the proposed water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has changed from Dinwiddie High School. The hearing will be held at the Southside Virginia Community College Alberta gymnasium at 109 Campus Drive in Alberta Va. The hearing will be held from 6 to 10 p.m.

Public comment period and public hearings scheduled on draft water quality certifications for proposed natural gas pipelines

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2017

Contact: Ann Regn
(804) 698-4442
ann.regn@deq.virginia.gov

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public comment period, including five public hearings around the Commonwealth in August, to receive comments on draft water quality certifications designed to protect water quality along the routes of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

Two hearings will be held for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and three will be held for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The public comment period to receive written comments on both pipelines will run from July 3 through August 22, 2017.

"These hearings and the comment period are very important to helping DEQ meet its goal of protecting water quality," DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. "The pipeline construction is a complicated process, and we look forward to receiving valuable public input as these projects proceed."

The public hearings schedule for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is:

-- August 7, 2017, from 6 to 10 p.m. -- James Madison University, Festival Conference and Student Center, Grand Ballroom, 1301 Carrier Drive, Harrisonburg, VA 22807. Parking is in Lots C11, C12, and D3.

-- August 10, 2017, from 6 to 10 p.m. -- Longwood University, Jarman Auditorium, 201 High St., Farmville, VA 23901. Parking is in Wheeler Lot, Crafts Lot, High Street Lot, Randolph Lot or other university-owned lots.

-- August 14, 2017, from 6 to 10 p.m. -- Dinwiddie High School Auditorium, 11501 Boisseau Road, Dinwiddie, VA 23841. Parking is only in designated areas on school property.

The public hearing schedule for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is:

-- August 8, 2017, from 6 to 10 p.m. -- Radford University, Preston/Bondurant Auditorium, 801 East Main St., Radford, VA 24142. Parking is only in Lot A, or Lots E and U.

-- August 9, 2017, from 6 to 10 p.m. -- Chatham High School Auditorium, 100 Cavalier Circle, Chatham, VA 24531. Parking is only in designated areas on school property.

The documents on which DEQ is seeking comments are referred to as "401 certifications." These draft certifications will place conditions on activities in upland areas that are near state waters and that may indirectly affect state water along the pipeline routes. These certifications are in addition to the requirements imposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, by the Commonwealth of Virginia for stormwater, erosion and sediment control, and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for wetlands and streams.

The conditions address, among other matters, impacts to public water supplies; engineering and best management practices for steep slopes and slide-prone areas; environmental monitoring and inspections; and development and implementation of plans and procedures for karst mitigation, spill prevention control, water quality monitoring, and protection of riparian buffers.

Additional information is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.

Drought watch advisory lifted for Northern Virginia region

By William.Hayden@deq.virginia.gov (Bill Hayden) from Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases. Published on .

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2017

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

RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has lifted the "drought watch" advisory issued in March 2017 for public or private water supplies that use groundwater or that withdraw water directly from tributaries of the Potomac River in the Northern Virginia drought evaluation region.

The Northern Virginia drought evaluation region includes Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.

According to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a group representing state and federal agencies, the main factors contributing to the removal of the drought watch are:

-- Above-normal precipitation over the past several weeks has raised the total since October 1, 2016, to more than 83.5 percent of the normal amounts expected for this period.
-- Stream flows and groundwater levels at nearly all indicator stations have increased to levels greater than 25 percent of historic recorded flows.

A drought watch advisory remains in effect for the Northern Piedmont drought evaluation region. Although increased rainfall has returned stream flows in this region to normal levels, groundwater levels remain low. Because groundwater provides flow to streams during the normally dry late summer and early fall months, less-than-normal groundwater levels may be of concern if drier-than-normal conditions return during July, August or September.

The affected localities and public water suppliers in the Northern Piedmont drought evaluation region include Culpeper, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Orange, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and the city of Fredericksburg.

Statewide information on the current drought status is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.
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