Monday, April 11, 2011

Virginia Water Radio 61: Week of Apr. 11, 2011

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio (Episode 61), for the week of April 11, 2011.

Audio archived 4-13-12; please contact Virginia Water Radio for access to the audio file.

  • A recent Virginia Water Radio item noted the mid-February discovery of several hundred gallons of petroleum in a drain at the Pickett Road Tank Farm on the eastern edge of Fairfax City. That incident followed spills in 2010 from a tanker truck accident and an underground leak, and a large spill some 20 years ago that reportedly still affects local groundwater. Responding to that series of incidents, the 2011 Virginia General Assembly passed companion bills HB 2103 and SB 843, requiring the State Water Control Board to mandate that the tank farm meet performance standards for new or retrofitted tanks by 2021. News sources: Release of fuel detected at tank farm, Fairfax Connection, 3/2/11; and Fuel release reaches 1,000 gallons, Fairfax Connection, 3/14/11. 
  • On March 30 and 31, four public listening sessions were held in Virginia Beach to gather citizens’ comments and concerns about predicted sea-level rises in the Hampton Roads area. The City of Virginia Beach’s comprehensive plan cites estimates that average sea level could rise between 2 and 5 feet by 2100, increasing flooding and storm-surge threats to waterfront areas. Along with the City, sponsors of the listening sessions were the University of Virginia, Wetlands Watch, and the Hampton Roads Sanitation District. The city council will receive results of the sessions at its April 19 meeting.  News source: Va. Beach meetings to take up threat of rising seas, Virginian-Pilot, 3/29/11.
Now, here’s a quick look at three other stories:
  • On March 29, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission approved a field study by Gamesa Energy USA to determine if environmental conditions are appropriate for construction of a single, prototype wind-energy turbine in waters about three miles offshore of Cape Charles, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. If the study finds the site suitable, the company would need Commission approval for construction of the turbine. News source: Va. OKs study of wind turbines in Chesapeake Bay, Virginian-Pilot, 3/30/11. (Gamesa Energy USA is a Philadelphia-based subsidiary of the Gamesa Corporation in Spain.) 
  • Working with the FEMSA Foundation, the Blacksburg company Portaqua has developed a truck-based water-purification and bottling system that can deliver water to disaster-affected areas. The truck contains a laboratory and living space for four people, and can operate for up to five days at a time. News source: Portaqua: Come for Water (Ven Por Agua), Inside VT KnowledgeWorks, 3/25/11. (The FEMSA Foundation, which seeks to provide access to safe drinking water in Latin America and the Caribbean, was created by the FEMSA company, one of Latin America’s largest beverage companies.)
And in our last news item: 
  • In a recently published study, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, or VIMS, researchers reported that moving aquaculture-raised oysters to saltier water just before harvest significantly reduced the oysters’ level of the disease-causing bacterium Vibrio. This organism is the focus of U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations requiring Gulf of Mexico oyster farmers to use some type of post-harvest procedure to reduce Vibrio levels, such as quick freezing, high pressures, or low-dose irradiation. Some in the oyster industry assert that the post-harvest procedures are too costly and excessively target an organism that’s estimated to cause less than one percent of deaths from food-borne illness. The process in the VIMS study potentially offers a less costly alternative, but the researchers note that a full-scale validation study of the technique is still needed. News source: Public-private partnership aids oyster industry, Virginia Institute of Marine Science News Release, 3/21/11.

This week we feature another mystery sound: unused and expired medications being disposed of without flushing them down a drain

Proper disposal of medications helps prevent unintended drug use and keeps pharmaceuticals from reaching waterways. If medications are flushed down a toilet or drain, typically the chemicals in the medications will remain after wastewater treatment and be discharged to waterways, where they can potentially harm aquatic life. So here are the disposal steps recommended for most medications: 1. Put medication into a sealable plastic bag. 2. Add cat litter, coffee grounds, or other material that will deter pets and children from eating the contents. 3. Seal the bag and put it in the trash. And 4. Remove all identifying personal information from prescription containers. Note that the federal Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing for certain medicines that pose a particular risk of improper use; a list of those medications is available at that agency’s Web site. And you should check to see whether any local ordinances prohibit disposal of medications in household trash in your area.

Information for this segment from the American Pharmacists Association’s “Smart Disposal” Web site; the U.S. EPA’s “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products” Web site; and the Food and Drug Administration’s “Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know” Web site. More information: On April 30, 2011, law enforcement agencies statewide will conduct National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The event is designed to help people properly dispose of unused drugs in order to help prevent improper drug use and to keep chemicals out of waterways. To see if a take-back day is happening near you, call your local police or sheriff’s department, or visit the U.S. Department of Justice “National Take Back Initiative” Web site,, where you can search this site for the take-back location nearest you. 


First, in Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring between April 14 and April 20.
  • On April 18 at 10 a.m., the Stormwater Best Management Practices Clearinghouse Committee meets at the Virginia Department of Forestry office in Charlottesville. For more information: David Dowling, (804) 786-2291 or The Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) Clearinghouse is a Web site on design standards and specifications of all stormwater BMPs approved for use in Virginia to control the quality and/or quantity of stormwater runoff. More information about the Stormwater BMP Clearinghouse Committee is available at
  • On April 20 at 1 p.m., the Technical Advisory Committee on the general discharge permit regulation for car-wash facilities meets at the DEQ office in Richmond. For more information: For more information: George Cosby, (804) 698-4067 or The committee is assisting the DEQ and State Water Control Board in reissuing and possibly amending this regulation, located at 9 VAC 25-194 in the Virginia Administrative Code.
Now, here are two meetings about Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, for impaired waters:
  • April 19, 7 p.m., at the county administration building in Stafford, on TMDL studies for bacterial impairments in several Potomac River tributaries in Fauquier and Stafford counties. For more information: Jennifer Carlson, (703) 583-3859 or
  • And April 20, 7 p.m., at the A.J. Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge, also on TMDL studies for bacterial impairments in several Potomac River tributaries, in this case mostly in Prince William County. For more information: Jennifer Carlson, (703) 583-3859 or
Finally, in educational, recreational, and stewardship events:
Virginia Water Radio is a product of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, which is solely responsible for the show’s content. Hosting and bandwidth for this podcast are also provided by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center. We invite you to visit the center online at

Show notes and production assistance were provided by Patrick Fay. Recording assistance was provided by the Office of University Relations at Virginia Tech.

Opinions expressed on this show are not necessarily those of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Tech, or our broadcasting stations.

If you need more information about anything mentioned this week, call us at (540) 231-5463, or visit our web site at