On April 26, 2017, Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) came out with a report focusing on the livestock pollution issues in the Shenandoah. The Washington Post covered the report’s release, and perhaps out of an abundance of caution, focused a bit too heavily on the bacterial concerns.
The report is extremely important, however, and is accurate in highlighting two problems that Virginia has not sufficiently addressed:
- Continued runoff from ineffective nutrient management planning which fuels algae blooms; and
- Livestock management issues that allow spikes in bacteria levels in the river.
It’s important to note that with regards to recreational use of the river, these are not new problems and not newly discovered. Our organization actively promotes river recreation and works to get people on the water. We believe the best stewards of the river are the users of the river so we want people to enjoy the Shenandoah and we want the Shenandoah to be the best that it can be and that means addressing these two challenges identified in EIP’s report.
The report highlights the intensified need for the state to step up and improve how it’s regulating these problems so that people can make well-informed decisions while out on the water. We feel our effort is best focused on motivating the state to fix these problems.
Our staff and our families are on the river frequently. We wade, fish, paddle and even swim in the summer. It’s the precautions that are important. Use common sense. If you have a cut or an unhealed scrape, don’t go in the river. Actually, this would be true for any body of water, not just the Shenandoah. If you get a cut or a scrape while out on the river, clean it thoroughly and apply a broad spectrum antibacterial ointment like Neosporin. Don’t drink the river. If water gets in your ears, clean it.
Most importantly, get out and enjoy the natural beauty of our Shenandoah River as much as you can!