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Time for Some Virginia ‘Ataboys

Some clean water good news from Virginia...

First, the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned last weekend (Feb. 23) but not before approving a state budget containing $216 million in additional funds for clean water projects.

Specifically, the funding will help Virginia localities upgrade their sewage treatment plants, better manage stormwater runoff, and invest in other sewer and water infrastructure projects. The money represents the biggest investment in clean water by Virginia in several years, and the legislature and the administration of Gov. Bob McDonnell are to be applauded for their support.

The additional state dollars not only will help reduce water pollution, flooding, beach closures, and hikes in local utility rates; cleaner water also will provide a better quality of life for Virginians and greater economic, tourism, and recreational opportunities for everyone. 

Purceville STP 082410 120Especially important is $106 million in grants to help localities install nutrient-reduction technology in wastewater plants. Treated sewage wastewater is among the larger sources of excess nitrogen and phosphorus plaguing the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers. In excess amounts, these nutrients contribute to the Bay’s infamous dead zones of oxygen-starved water and to the depletion of vital underwater grasses.

Installing the modern technology to reduce those pollutants in wastewater is a major priority for Virginia and the Bay region. The additional state funding helps keep Virginia on course to meet its Bay Clean Water Blueprint goals for the next several years.

Also critical is $35 million in new state funding to help localities better manage urban stormwater runoff, a growing pollution threat to waterways everywhere and another priority of Virginia’s Bay Blueprint.

Lawmakers also passed a CBF-backed measure that will better protect the Bay’s Atlantic Menhaden menhaden population. The legislation reduces the menhaden catch in Virginia waters by 20 percent, bringing the Commonwealth into compliance with a coast-wide menhaden conservation plan approved last year. The action protects menhaden and the livelihoods of hundreds of hardworking watermen who depend upon the menhaden fishery in Virginia.

If you’re a Virginia voter and care about clean water and the Bay, drop the governor and your state legislator a note to say thank you for their Bay protection efforts. They deserve it.

And on the local front, the Charlottesville, Va., City Council last week approved a stormwater utility fee, creating a reliable, dedicated source of money to better deal with that city’s runoff pollution problems. 

IStock_000000891221LargeRunoff pollution – the rain and snow that runs off our roofs, streets, parking lots, and other hard surfaces and washes grit and grime into nearby streams – is a growing problem in urban areas across the Chesapeake Bay region. Better managing this runoff to reduce its harmful impacts on the Bay and its tributaries is critical to restoring clean water and abundant fish, crabs, and oysters.

Charlottesville’s monthly stormwater fee will be based on the amount of impervious surfaces (rooftops, driveways, patios, etc.) on landowners’ property that allow rain and other water to run off quickly into the city’s storm sewer system.

As one city councilmember said of the fee in a news report, “This is like water and sewer. We’re looking at a reasonable way of measuring how much people are using the infrastructure and asking them to pay for it.”

The council also intends to develop an incentive credit program that reduces the fee for landowners who install features such as rain barrels and rain gardens that trap stormwater runoff and allow it to soak into the ground naturally. That’s better for the environment and ratepayers.

Kudos to Charlottesville for dealing directly with a growing problem impacting everyone in the Bay region, upstream and down.

Chuck Epes
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(Stormwater photo from iStock)


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Consider- more good legacies of the 1972 Clean Water Act. Three cheers!

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