Creeks’ pollution solution

Published 10:26 pm Friday, September 25, 2015

State officials, an advocacy group and other interested folks came together Thursday evening to talk about a solution to a big local waterway problem: pollution.

Certain locations of Chuckatuck Creek and Brewers Creek have very high levels of bacteria. A member of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality met with the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance to present some potential solutions.

There is a big difference between coming in contact with the bacteria in the water and consuming it, said Jim Winters, Master Gardener and member of the alliance’s executive board. “You could swim in it,” he said. However, with the bacteria and pollution levels where they are at, the creeks’ shellfish, including the oysters, are too dangerous to eat.

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“We’re doing something about it,” Winters said of the creeks. “You don’t do it overnight.”

In time, and with some hard work, the levels of the creeks could significantly improve. For example, 46 percent of Virginia Beach’s Lynnhaven River was reopened for public access after about five years of implementing some similar practices, Winters said. It was an improvement from the zero public access it had when the program begun.

“This has to be a team-work kind of effort,” Winters said. “And everybody has a part to play.”

The bacteria and other forms of pollution come from a variety of different places. Private property owners, farm land owners and citizens groups are just a few of the many groups of people listed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality who need to do their part in order to make a difference. Wildlife, pets and livestock waste, as well as improperly maintained septic systems, all are sources of pollution.

Meeting attendees discussed a number of ways to help prevent further pollution. Winters mentioned the rain barrel solution, which is meant to collect rain running off one’s roof and reuse it on site, for example to water plants.

Other solutions listed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality include maintaining septic systems, pumping out boat sewage at a discharge facility, throwing away pet waste in waste stations and, rather than allowing livestock to wander to the water’s edge, blocking it off and giving them their own water system within the enclosure.

One of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance’s main efforts is going to be educating the public about the issues and the solutions, Winters said. One of the ways they plan to go about doing this is by putting up a display at Peanut Fest, as well as at events held at local parks. There, they can talk to people in the community about how they can help improve the quality of local waterways.