DEQ to hold public meeting on Staunton River PCB study
RICHMOND, VA. - The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public meeting July 29, 2008, at 7 p.m. at the Altavista YMCA on a water quality study of the Staunton (lower Roanoke) River.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for discussion of DEQ's ongoing water quality study, monitoring and testing efforts, and cleanup activities. During several years of study on the Staunton between Altavista in Campbell County and Clover in Halifax County, DEQ has found fish contaminated with PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. These PCB levels have led to fish consumption advisories by the Virginia Department of Health.
The DEQ South Central Regional Office in Lynchburg has been working to identify sources of the PCBs, and the focus includes waterways in the urbanized areas of Altavista and in the vicinity of Corporation Branch, a tributary of the Staunton in Brookneal.
DEQ has collected samples of water discharged from two industrial facilities and one municipal facility. Test results from 2006 and 2007 show the average concentration of PCBs at 19.2 parts per trillion in water discharged from the Burlington Industries facility in Hurt. In 2007, PCBs were found at 9.9 ppt in the Altavista wastewater treatment plant discharge, and in 2006 at 0.5 ppt from the Dan River Inc. plant in Brookneal.
The current Virginia water quality standard for total PCBs in surface water is 1.7 ppt. One part per trillion is equivalent to one drop of water in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Burlington Industries in Hurt is closing its operations, and the Dan River facility at Brookneal closed in September 2006. The Altavista treatment plant receives wastewater from several industries, including BGF Industries Inc. Since 2001, BGF has been working on cleanup of historical releases of PCBs that were used at the site before and during the 1970s.
DEQ continues to work with these facility owners to ensure that PCBs are not released from the sites into Virginia waters. This includes developing site-specific cleanup strategies and industrial storm water permits for PCBs that may remain at the facilities. In addition, DEQ is working with Altavista to reduce PCBs entering the treatment plant.
Results of fish tissue samples from the Staunton in 2006 indicate that PCB concentrations in fish range from 7 parts per billion to 1,712 ppb. The Virginia Department of Health's level of concern for PCBs in fish tissue is 50 ppb.
Information from the DEQ study will be used to develop a "total maximum daily load" for the river. A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body may contain and still meet water quality standards. To restore water quality, PCBs will have to be reduced to the amount specified by the TMDL.
PCBs are chemicals that were used in electrical transformers and other equipment until the late 1970s and can remain in the environment for decades. The health department recommends that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, infants and young children should avoid eating PCB-contaminated fish from advisory areas.
Source: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
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