An assessment of waterways throughout the state has found that water quality in Rappahannock County is about the same as it was two years ago.
The 2010 draft report released Monday by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) listed a section of the Hughes River as “impaired” for having excessive temperatures in stockable trout waters.
That segment of the Hughes was not previously listed as Category 5, meaning it is impaired and needs further study. The portion of the Hughes identified as Category 5 begins at the upper crossing of Route 707, near the confluence of Rocky Run, and continues downstream until the crossing of Route 231, just over three miles away.
Another segment of the Hughes, as well as portions of the Rappahannock, Rush, Thornton and Hazel rivers as well as Blackwater Creek, Big Branch and Battle Run, are listed as Category 4, meaning they are still impaired since the last report in 2008. Excessive levels of E. Coli bacteria caused them to be listed as Category 4.
“The studies showed that waste from livestock, wildlife, failing septic systems, straight pipes and pets all contributed to the bacteria problems in these streams,” explained Katie Conaway, of the DEQ’s northern regional office in Woodbridge. “. . . bacteria impairments are among the most common impairments seen throughout the Commonwealth, in both urban and rural areas.”
She noted that no body of water in Rappahannock County has been removed from the impaired waters list since the state’s last assessment.
As to whether water quality is improving, getting worse or staying the same in the county, Conaway said: “Generally speaking, and based on the data available to us, it looks like the water quality of streams in Rappahannock County is staying about the same.”
She said that the DEQ, along with citizen groups such as RappFLOW, will continue to collect water-quality monitoring data in the county’s waterways. The next assessment will be in 2012 and will use data collected from Jan. 1, 2005 to Dec. 31, 2010.
Beverly Hunter, coordinator of RappFLOW (Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed), said on Tuesday that she had not yet seen the latest report and would need to study it.
“We’ve been working for several years to improve water quality,” she said of RappFLOW’s involvement.
Conaway added that for any new Category 5 impairments found in the next report in 2012, “water quality studies (TMDL studies) will be done to determine the source of the impairment, and how much those sources need to be reduced in order for the stream to meet water quality standards.”
The 2,600-page statewide report can be found on the DEQ Web site at www.deq.state.va.us/wqa.