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Fish from a Burning River: Katie Sponsler Eyes the James River...

In June of 1969, the Cuyahoga River, just south of Cleveland, Ohio, caught fire again. Once considered one of the most industry-polluted rivers in...

Burned Once, Chesapeake Shouldn’t Trust Dominion Virginia Power

Kingston Fossil Plant retention overflow photo 140714CUAandSMagazine_zpsbe6e7335.jpgChesapeake is concerned. The City Manager indicates that this issue rises from the Dan River spill last February and the city's action to protect the Elizabeth River is not directed at Dominion. But there's history there and Dominion has provided no reason to trust its motives.

This isn't just Chesapeake's concern. The Elizabeth is really only a tidal estuary that runs to the mouth of the James River on the way to the Chesapeake Bay through Portsmouth and Norfolk. It is about six miles long. The Dan River spill created a 70 mile coating of toxic sludge. So this should have the attention of Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore too. But Chesapeake is center stage because it already knows how difficult it is to force Dominion Power to take responsibility for its mess.

Battlefield Golf Club was built using fly ash. Something the coal power industry has been advertising as a "good thing" in an attempt to rid itself of this pesky poisonous residue of energy production. Maybe if they can just spread all of it thin enough over hill and dale, insert it into concrete, and sweep it into wastewater systems no one will notice the damage. The proper cost of disposal has never been calculated into the cost of energy produced from coal. War on coal? How about coal's war on the planet?

Now almost five years into litigation over the damage caused during the Battlefield Golf Club construction, only one thing is clear: once any area is contaminated, you have to wait for a proper class to fall victim to the damage before anything can be recovered. That is essentially what is going on with the lawsuits over the golf course. For now the damage has been "limited" to the ground water under the golf course. And since the local residents have been connected to city water on Dominion's dime, the judge has basically said that they have not been damaged. The Environmental Protection Agency's findings of that limited damage have actually helped the defendants' case(s). Residents will have to wait for cancer, birth defects, or however this eventually manifests to demonstrate they have been harmed.  

James River Association assigns latest grade to the integrity of the...


Cross-posted from Article XI.

The James River Association, a nonprofit conservation organization, recently released its biennial report on the health of the James River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. This new report will provide an update to its 2009 report findings.

In 2009, the James River Association gave the James a C-plus based on habitat assessments, wildlife, and pollution.

However, in the wake of stark state environmental budget cuts and the possibility of a Republican taking over the Oval Office in 2012, the outlook for improving upon impressive gains made in the James River seem remote.

While the McDonnell administration reluctantly engaged in the TMDL negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, the administration will no doubt be even less inclined to aggressively spend the money and time on cleaning up a river that many within the Republican Party of VA somehow think is doing fine or simply not worth the expenditures.

If the McDonnell administration chooses to ignore or deprioritize the cleaning of the James River, it would be an episode of fiscal hypocrisy when you take into consideration the amount of time and money that has been spent already on restoring the James River.

Virginia has already made a commitment to see one of its state treasures restored. We have to see it through, budget cuts, Republican presidents, or not.  

Eagles Soar Again on the James

As a child growing up in Lynchburg, home to more than five generations of my family, I learned to love the James River, the first great "highway" for European settlers in America. Over the years, I watched the river become less polluted, thanks to the federal Clean Water Act. I also saw the return of hawks soaring through the sky, thanks to the federal ban on the use of DDT. Now, the Lynchburg News & Advance is reporting that bald eagles have returned to the James.

A pair of bald eagles has been returning since 2002 and raising a couple of eaglets near the U.S. 29 Monacan Bridge, according to the Lynchburg Bird Club. Another pair of bald eagles had been nesting since 2003 in a tree along the James in Camp Saca-jawea, a Girl Scout property just upstream from Lynchburg. (Those eagles abandoned that nesting site last winter, perhaps because of people trying to photograph them. Eagles thrive in environments that are quiet and have clean water.)

The return of bald eagles to Virginia was first noted along the Chesapeake Bay and lower James River in the 1970s. Since then, they have been seen nesting as far west in Virginia as Highland County and Pulaski County. Now, my home town can be added to the list.