NRPA is on the job

Published 7:34 pm Saturday, September 26, 2015


Suffolk’s waterways are facing serious pollution problems. Fortunately there are folks who are taking an active role in getting them clean.

The Nansemond River Preservation Alliance has been working to raise awareness of the problem of Suffolk’s polluted waterways for several years. On Thursday, members of the organization heard some good news from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The good news may not be the news most folks would like to hear — that Suffolk’s waterways have been restored to good health — but it should nonetheless give NRPA volunteers and others who love Suffolk’s waterways reason for optimism.

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Here’s the good news: Even though Chuckatuck Creek, Bennett’s Creek and the Nansemond River are facing serious pollution problems that cannot be ignored, there is reason to believe the damage is reversible.

In time, and with some hard work, level of pollutants in 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 environmentally sound practices, alliance member and master gardener Jim Winters noted during the meeting with VDEQ. It was an improvement from zero public access on that river when the program began.

Such success did not come easily, however. Teamwork, educational outreach and a concerted effort to get help from everyone — from pet owners to landowners to local government agencies — were necessary to the success story of the Lynnhaven River. Success in Suffolk will require similar efforts.

Fortunately the group of mostly volunteers who comprise the NRPA is an energetic bunch with a zeal for the work of cleaning up these natural resources in Suffolk. Members spend many hours educating the city’s students about pollution, planting marsh grasses, restoring oyster habitats, monitoring waterways, collecting and compiling information and tracking the health of Suffolk’s river and streams.

The city is blessed to have a group so devoted to the cause of cleaning up its waterways. NRPA would be similarly blessed if the residents of Suffolk took the cause half as seriously. It’s surprisingly easy for the average person to make a difference in this matter. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a barrel to collect rainwater that runs off your roof, to use for watering plants.
  • Maintain your septic system.
  • Pump out boat and RV sewage at a discharge facility.
  • Pick up and throw away your pet’s waste.
  • Limit the use of pesticides and fertilizers in your home garden.

We may never again be able to see the Nansemond River as clean as it was when the Native American people, according to legends, were harvesting oysters the size of dinner plates from the waters of Hampton Roads. But there’s every reason to believe that a concerted effort can turn things around for Suffolk’s waterways. It’s good to have folks like the people at NRPA on the task.