Pick it up and clean it up

Published 9:30 pm Thursday, June 16, 2011

The water quality of the Nansemond River is improving, according to the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance.

Sadly, things really had nowhere to go but up. Given the fact that the springs that once fed the river have been dammed to make the lakes that provide other parts of Hampton Roads much of their water, there is very little besides rainwater to wash pollutants away.

That means that the Upper Nansemond has become so polluted that it has been closed to swimming. Too much bacteria and high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous have combined to make today’s Nansemond River something that folks can only look at.

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The improvements are slight, and they will not quickly change the situation. The river still gets a grade of “D” for its pollution levels and for its access to the public. Open space and boat ramps are limited to nonexistent. And the fecal coliform bacteria that suffuse the water make one wonder just how many people would want to access it, even if they could do so.

When the NRPA formed to lobby on the river’s behalf, the Nansemond finally had a champion. Members of the organization have been busy in recent months talking to civic groups around the city and explaining the dire situation in which Suffolk’s backbone waterway finds itself. They have sought the help of volunteers to clean trash from the waterway and to place notices around the city reminding folks that storm drains send water and trash straight to the river, rather than to some water treatment plant.

With the continued help of city workers, whose efforts to keep the streets clean downtown keep loads of trash from washing into the river, the Nansemond has begun to spring back, even if only slightly.

Now, the citizens of Suffolk must get involved, too. And it’s pretty simple to do so. Don’t litter. Pick up your pets’ waste. Don’t dump grease or oil down storm drains. Basically, as we all should have learned in kindergarten, if you make a mess, clean it up.

The Nansemond River is far too beautiful and vital a resource to let it die.