Shenandoah Algae Reporting Campaign
We are continuing our fight to force the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to fulfill its duty to identify the North Fork, South Fork, and main stem of the Shenandoah River (collectively, “Shenandoah River”) as impaired (Category 5) due to widespread algae blooms fueled by uncontrolled or poorly-controlled pollutants including nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment, […]
Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Shenandoah Riverkeeper Comments on DEQ Draft Water Quality Assessment Guidance Manual
Read the comments on behalf of Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Shenandoah Riverkeeper (“Commenters”) regarding the above-referenced Guidance Manual. Commenters appreciate the opportunity to provide our perspective on the adequacy and applicability of the manual to assessing persistent pollution problems in the Shenandoah River watershed which continue to negatively affect and impair the public’s ability to […]
We’ve been dealing with excessive algae blooms throughout the river ever since a massive fish kill occurred in 2005. That event spawned Virginia’s Fish Kill Task Force to study the problem. The Task Force discovered many things. None of them good. They discovered male fish with female parts, known as intersex fish. They discovered fish […]
Local groups challenge EPA’s approval of Virginia’s decision to not list the Shenandoah as ‘impaired,’ despite excessive algae blooms and nutrient pollution Front Royal, VA — Today, four local citizen groups filed a lawsuit filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the agency’s repeated failure to address the Shenandoah River’s increasing problem with […]
Cattle trample vegetation and destroy a stream bank as they walk down the bank to enter the river. The damage can be severe. It denudes the streamside vegetation and increases the sediment load into the river along with all of the poop and urine. Healthy stream banks and their buffers protect the vegetation, providing needed […]
The Shenandoah Riverkeeper scored a major victory in protecting the Shenandoah watershed by compelling the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to dramatically improve the Massanutten Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) permit and halt nutrient trading at the facility. The previous permit allowed the STP to exceed its permit limits for nutrients and purchase credits to […]
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 […]
After 6 years of fighting, on September 16, 2016, Shenandoah Riverkeeper finally had our chance to tell a state court judge in Richmond why Virginia’s statewide permit allowing farmers to apply treated sewage sludge (known as biosolids) to their fields fails to prevent overuse of sludge and pollution of nearby waterways, including the Shenandoah River. […]
Algal Outbreaks Continue to Plague the Shenandoah
The Shenandoah River and its inhabitants have been suffering from algal outbreaks for years now. We know that a principal source of the problem is nutrient runoff from agricultural operations, and we know that the fish kills directly result from the outbreaks. We also know that there are management practices, such as fencing herds of cattle out of streams, planting stream buffers, and limiting manure application to match crop needs, that would minimize nutrient pollution and their associated harmful algal outbreaks.
So, if we know the cause and we know the solutions, why is nutrient pollution allowed to continue? To make the question even more refined, why is Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) not doing more to address this problem? Always remember that the department is called “Environmental Quality” so we should be asking some hard questions.
Why, for example, does DEQ fight our effort to list the Shenandoah as impaired by nutrient pollution? Recall that Mark Frondorf, as Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Potomac Riverkeeper Network filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency when it approved DEQ’s refusal to list the river as impaired; a finding of impairment would require DEQ to impose stricter standards to guard against nutrient pollution. That lawsuit was our only recourse against DEQ’s obstinate position. We lost that case, but we are appealing.
For years, we have been asking recreational users of the Shenandoah to take photos, including information about time and location of the algal outbreaks they observe. Our members and volunteers have filled our inboxes with such photos — and we have been submitting them to DEQ with a request for action. Last year, DEQ established a formal program for accepting detailed complaints, so we have been following that new detailed protocol. Despite your efforts to document pollution — and our efforts to use that documentation for advocacy and legal action — DEQ has not yet even begun the process to list the Shenandoah as impaired by nutrient pollution.
Those of you who know us well will not be surprised to learn that we are not giving up — and we don’t want you to give up either. In addition to appealing the adverse legal ruling we received, we are continuing to document algal outbreaks, we are continuing to push for more funding for agricultural management practices that will reduce pollution (and we actually got record levels of funding in 2019), and we are bringing this problem to the attention of the media and to public officials who can help us to solve it.
Agricultural nutrient runoff causes algae to bloom; algae blooms kill fish and make the Shenandoah a less vibrant and rich part of our ecosystem as well as hindering our enjoyment of it. It’s time for DEQ to act. We need your help to make that happen. Please continue to send us your photos and observations every time you see an algal outbreak. We will use those photos with your support to redouble our efforts to advocate on your behalf for a clean Shenandoah. We will no longer be ignored.
- 2019-06-20_Algae_North Fork_Edinburg_Complaint
- 2019-06-20_Algae_North Fork_Red Banks_Complaint
- 2019-06-20_Algae_North Fork_Woodstock_Complaint
- 2019-07-30_Algae_South Fork_Berrytown_Complaint
- 2019-07-30_Algae_South Fork_Island Ford_Complaint
- 2019-07-30_Algae_South Fork_South Elkton_Complaint
- 2019-08-02_Algae_Shenandoah River_Castlemans Ferry_Complaint
- 2019-08-02_Algae_Shenandoah River_River Road_Complaint
- 2019-08-05_Algae_South Fork_Eastham Park_Complaint
- 2019-08-02_Algae_Shenandoah River_Shepherds Island_Complaint