Monday, July 16, 2018

What Elon Musk should do for Flint Michigan

There has been quite a stir from Elon Musk’s July 11th Tweet. He said “Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding.”

I was stunned when I read this. First of all, this is a generous and kind offer. However, what was shocking to me was how ignorant Elon Musk was about the water situation in Flint Michigan and how little he knew about drinking water and who regulates it. The man is a genius and yet he did not know that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act. We need to teach the basics of how water, sewage, electricity and internet/ phone service are provided. So that the future decision makers will know what questions to Google or ask Suri or Alexa.

Under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA sets standards for approximately 90 contaminants in drinking water including bacteria from human waste, industrial discharge streams (of great concern back in 1974 when the SDWA was first created) and water disinfection by-products and distribution system contaminants (last revised in 1990’s). For each of these contaminants, EPA sets a legal limit, called a maximum contaminant level. EPA requires that all public water supplies be tested for this list of contaminants on a regular basis (from daily, to quarterly, to every other year or longer depending on the contaminant and water system) and meet these minimum standards on average. In addition, EPA sets secondary standards for less hazardous substances based on aesthetic characteristics of taste, smell and appearance, which public water systems and states can choose to adopt or not.

After hearing from many, Mr. Musk later understood that most Flint homes have safe water and said he would organize an effort to add filters to houses that need them. However, it was promptly pointed out by many sources that the state already offers free filters to Flint residents. So, lets back up and review what happened in Flint, and how Mr. Musk can really fix it; because this could affect many more communities. Flint Michigan was not an aberration nor was it the worst incidence of lead in drinking water supplies, but rather some combination of determined population, blatant misrepresentation by public officials, the public sentiment that allowed Flint to become the poster child for lead in drinking water.  In a 2017 examination of data, Reuters found 3,000 communities that had recently recorded lead levels at least double those in Flint during the peak of that city’s contamination crisis. So what happened in Flint.

In January 2016 the Governor of Michigan and the President of the United States declared an emergency in Flint, Michigan to authorized emergency assistance to provide water, water filters, water filter cartridges, water test kits, and other necessary items to address their water crisis. By then the drinking water supply in Flint Michigan had been contaminated for more than a year. The first contaminant to appear were high levels of viruses and bacteria, and inorganic contaminants such as salts and metals which were a result of inadequate treatment of the water, then high level of lead began to appear in homes. Reportedly, the lead was the result of slightly caustic, inadequately treated water leaching lead from the old distribution system.

The problems began when Flint decided to switch to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) as the City’s permanent water source in a cost saving measure as wholesale water rates from the old Detroit system kept growing in an attempt to support rising maintenance, repair and operating costs in that system. KWA would supply water to the members by building a new pipeline from Lake Huron. While waiting for KWA pipeline to be completed, the City of Flint planned to use the Flint River as a temporary alternative water source.

The Flint Water Treatment staff and their consultants struggled to meet the Safe Drinking Water Act levels at the water treatment plant. Then residents noticed changes in the smell, color, and taste of the water coming out of their taps. Tests showed high levels of bacteria that forced the city to issue boil advisories. In response, the city upped its chlorine levels to kill the pathogens. This created too many disinfectant byproducts, which are carcinogens and corrosive. Then the corrosive water began leaching lead, other metals and whatever else was in the biofilm on the old pipes into the water in the homes. Flint’s water department might have been able to avert the disaster by having a corrosion management plan and using additives to diminish the corrosiveness of the water at a negligible cost, but there was an underlying problem that effects not only Flint.

For decades instead of replacing lead pipes urban water companies (especially in poor cities) have used chemicals to control lead and other chemicals from leaching into the water supply. Many at the American Water Works Association and other trade groups have questioned the wisdom of this strategy, there is always some lead leaching and many scientists believe that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water.

Most existing lead pipes are over 75 years old, are in the older cities of the east coast and mid-west and should have been replaced in the normal course of preventive maintenance program. Unfortunately, that is not how we operate in the United States. A few cities, including Madison, Wisconsin, and Lansing, Michigan, have taken steps to remove all of their lead pipes. Such projects can cost tens of millions of dollars in small communities.
from NRDC on the right a lead pipe treated with Orthophosphate

It was estimated by the American Water Association that there are 6.5 million lead pipes still in service in the United States- and each would have to be replaced at an approximate cost of $15,000. In most water systems, these pipes are either partially or fully owned by the homeowner. Back in 2016 it was estimated that there were about 14,000 lead laterals (water pipes that run from the water mains in the street to the houses) that needed to be replaced for all residents to be assured that the water that reached their taps was as good quality as when it left the water treatment plant.

So, while it would be wonderful if Mr. Musk would pay for the replacement of the lead lateral pipes in Flint Michigan; there are many deserving communities in the United States and a limit to Mr. Musk's wealth. Maybe instead Mr. Musk can apply his creative genius to developing a method for removing pipes and replacing them without having to dig up every street and yard. If Mr. Musk could bring down the cost of  pipe replacement to the $1,000-$2,000 price range Flint and other communities could afford to get rid of the lead pipes. There are at least 6.5 million households  in the United States that could benefit from that invention. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The 2013 Rural Crescent Study

Prince William County is engaged in revising the sections of the Comprehensive Plan that pertain to the Rural Preservation Study that was created in December 2013. At that time Prince William County Office of Planning held a series of meetings at George Mason University, to discuss the results of the County Planning Department study of the County's rural preservation policies. Dr. Tom Daniels a Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, former farmland preservation program director in Lancaster County, PA  was one of the presenters. Dr. Daniels had studied and worked with several communities that had implemented successful and not so successful Rural Preservation Programs.

According to Dr. Daniels, there is in reality a limited tool box for land preservation; most of these tools are based on partitioning land ownership rights. Owning land basically means owning a set of rights- the mineral rights, the use rights, the development rights, the water rights and the air rights. The development rights are controlled by zoning which can be changed by the county supervisors by exception or amendment to the County Comprehensive Plan. Dr. Daniels presentation focused on what tools exist for rural preservation and how likely they are to succeed.

The first land preservation option is essentially for the county or a private party like the Trust for Public Land or another to purchase or receive as a donation of a conservation easement the Development Rights to preserve as open space or farmland in perpetuity. The problem with this option is money. While the Commonwealth of Virginia has a farmland preservation program that provides some funding to counties to purchase the development rights, the funding is extremely limited. There are several federal programs that have funding available to preserve farmland, forestland and ecologically important lands, but these are matching programs and a county must have also have funding and staff expertise available to put together deals and navigate tax deductions and saleable state tax credits and work with other organizations to structure deals and pull together the funding to create a conservation easement or purchase the development rights. This takes a commitment on the part of the County to fund and support such a program.

The second preservation option is to transfer the development rights (TDR) to developments in other parts of the county that allow the developer to build a higher density than normally allowed. This was a strategy that worked incredibly well in Montgomery County where 7,000 TDR deals totaling $110,000,000 were done. Unfortunately, in Virginia the State does not allow the county to operate a “TDR” Bank and Prince William no longer has large development parcels under the current zoning that could purchase a large number of TDRs. The County Board of Supervisors essentially gave away this option. So, it’s too late for the big deals and Prince William County would have to figure out a way to match development rights with small developments. The good news is that the Virginia legislature did pass the enabling legislation for that a few years ago. According to the Lincoln Land Institute TDR programs work only when they are part of a comprehensive plan that has the commitment and political will of the community behind it. TDR programs must be tailored to the specific political, economic and geographic circumstances of their location.

The final land preservation option is to sacrifice areas of the rural crescent and cluster development along the edges with mandatory preservation of some areas of open space within the Rural Crescent. This appears to be the option that will be used in Prince William County. Cluster development is typically part of a low impact development strategy (LID). LID is the latest catch phase in ecologically friendly site development and consists of five elements: preserving open space and minimizing land disturbance; protecting natural drainage ways, soils and sensitive areas; incorporating natural site elements like wetlands, stream corridors, and woodlands as site features; reducing the size of traditional infrastructure; and decentralize and manage storm water at its source. Of the 345 farms in Prince William County (in 2007) 210 of them were 50 acres or less.

LID is by its nature a distributed design involving, ongoing maintenance of the plants, replanting after severe winters or prolonged droughts, weeding, and other land and habitat maintenance along with effective water and sewage management. There is no method of ensuring that these features are maintained appropriately and that any repairs or replacements are done with LID in mind. In addition, there is the problem of supplying water and sewage to clustered developments. Homes clustered together cannot be on well and septic, and it is believed that the county is planning on bringing public water and sewer to these areas. We need to compare the cost of extending and expanding the sewer and water supply and the impact of clustered development on the water resources in the rural crescent and consider if that money could be better spent purchasing development rights. This past winter the Virginia Legislature amended the enabling legislation for comprehensive planning to provide for the continued availability, quality and sustainability of groundwater and surface water resources on a County level as part of the comprehensive plan. Impact on water resources for existing and future users in the rural crescent must be considered and addressed by the comprehensive plan and the County Board of Supervisors.

The Rural Crescent is an extraordinary valuable resource that we need to maintain for our quality of life, the health of our watershed and the ecological services it provides. We need to protect our watershed in order to protect our water supply. If you pave and build over what was open land the groundwater recharge rate will be irreparably damaged. Without water there is no Prince William County. Any changes in the land cover, population density and use of water resources (recall that portions of the public water supply in western Prince William County come from groundwater) must be studied and considered before any changes are made to the land use, zoning and population density within the rural crescent.

Learn more and have your voice heard. On Monday, July 16th 2018 at 7 pm the Prince William Conservation Alliance is facilitating a Community Conversation with Elena Schlossberg of the Coalition to Protect PWC, Gil Trenum a member of the PWC School Board, Martin Jeter of the Mid-County Civic Association, Tim Hugo Delegate for the 40th House District and Kim Hosen as the moderator.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Shrinking the Rural Crescent

Prince William County is engaged in revising the sections of the Comprehensive Plan that pertain to the Rural Preservation Study and the Infrastructure and Facilities plan. According to the Kim Hosen Executive Director of the Prince William Conservation Alliance under consideration is changing the boundaries of the Rural Crescent to reduce its size in response to the Rural Preservation Study prepared  for the county in 2014 .

It is often believed that when you own land you can do what you want with the land, but that is not true. We have zoning and the county has a comprehensive plan to guide land use and development decisions. It is not in the public interest to allow anyone to put a hazardous waste dump in their backyard, build a manufacturing plant along the Occoquan or other publically undesirable activities.

As a matter of fact, Virginia law requires every governing body to adopt a comprehensive plan for the development of the lands within its jurisdiction. So each county and city has a comprehensive plan. By law these plans are reviewed every five years, to ensure that they continue to be responsive to current circumstances and that the citizens of the county continue to support the goals of the plan. The Rural Preservation Study and the Infrastructure and Facilities plan are two of the five sections being updated in Prince William County in 2018.

In 2012 while considering requests for exceptions to the comprehensive plan, Supervisor Martin Nohe supported by the other county Supervisors felt that it was time to reconsider some of the planning and development decisions that had been made in the past and asked for an analysis of the usefulness of the Rural Crescent in protecting rural character and open space, and whether policy adjustments or new policies would do a better job.

Preservation of the rural nature of the county has a long history in Prince William going back to a 1964 planning study that identified a significant portion of the County as "Large Estate and Agricultural." The preservation goals for this area became  formalized through designation of the Rural Area in the 1998 Comprehensive Plan that created the Rural Crescent. Since that time the Rural Crescent has been chipped away with exception requests each year.

According to official County records the Rural Crescent, encompasses almost 116,000 acres, but little of that total is still agricultural land. The Rural Crescent includes about 23,000 acres of federal land in the forest and Manassas Battlefield, 55,100 acres that are already developed including Quantico and existing developments (including all the homes built on 10 acres allowed under the A-1 zoning), about 2,600 acres that are permanently protected*(though permanently protected land can be seized for public use by eminent domain), 8,200 acres that have development plans already approved and almost 28,000 acres that are undeveloped and unprotected and could be preserved as open space and farmland.

The basic zoning that exists now in the Rural Crescent is A1- one house per 10 acres, much more money could be made by land owners and developers building at higher density on the land, but more dense suburban developments could damage the ecology of the region, increase the need for more tax revenues to provide infrastructure, utilities, and schools; and impact the quality of life of all county residents who enjoy the recreation opportunities of the Rural Crescent. In the survey that hundreds of Prince William residents took five years ago when the Rural Preservation Study was done, there was strong support for maintaining the open rural nature of the Rural Crescent.

Learn more about the issue, and have your voice heard. Join Prince William Conservation Alliance on Monday, July 16th 2018 at 7 pm at Giuseppe's Restaurant in Haymarket for a tCommunity Conversation featuring Elena Schlossberg of the Coalition to Protect PW County, Gil Trenum a member of the PW County School Board, Martin Jeter of the Mid-County Civic Association, Tim Hugo Delegate for the 40th House District and Kim Hosen of the PW Conservation Alliance as the moderator.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Planning for Sea Level Rise

Sea level is rising. The climate scientists tell us that we passed the tipping point for climate change long ago. Forty-five percent of the world’s population lives within coastal zones. In the United States over half of the population lives within cities and suburbs build within or adjacent to these estuaries. Estuaries occur in the partly enclosed coastal regions where rivers meet the sea. Estuaries are the mixing zone where the fresh water and sediments from rivers meets the seawater and tidal forces. 

In nature, estuaries and barrier islands provide protection for the mainland against flooding; but we continue to expand our coastal cities and suburbs, building within the estuaries that that were intended by nature to flood to protect the inland areas. Since the early 2000’s we have all watched on our TV’s, phones or computers as Katrina inundated New Orleans followed by Rita, Gustav, and Ike;  Sandy, Irene and Ida brought flooding to New York; and Hurricane Harvey that brought 30 inches of rain and epic flooding in Houston, Texas not to mention the damage wrought as it came up the coast. 

We need to adapt to and plan for the changing climate, rising sea levels, storm surge, flooding and land loss in the coastal region. One of the more vulnerable areas is the coastal region of Louisiana. Since 1930 Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of land to the Gulf of Mexico to these forces of nature. From 2004 through 2008 alone, more than 300 square miles of marshland were lost to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike which made the need to improve Louisiana’s hurricane protection systems and natural estuaries obvious.

In December 2005, meeting in a special session to address recovery issues confronting Louisiana following Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana Legislature created the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). In the subsequent years the CPRA would form partnerships to enhance its effectiveness and abilities. One of the CPRA’s partners is the Water Institute of the Gulf, a not-for-profit, non-government, independent and collaborative research center founded in 2011. In its own partnerships the Water Institute is developing tools for communities.

When storm surge and extreme rainfall events or hurricane inundate coastal areas, it’s not just homes and businesses that receive damage. Critical facilities such as fire stations, hospitals, and emergency response facilities that are crucial to a community’s ability to respond are at risk as well. Additionally, the protection of essential facilities such as government offices, banks, and schools are vital components of a community’s ability to recover, both short term or long term. The Water Institute along with federal and state agency partners, received funding in 2016 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify and evaluate the vulnerability of critical and essential facilities in south Lafourche Parish and Morgan City Louisiana to serve as pilot studies.

This study looked at forecast flood levels in both locations utilizing a model the institute developed to predict flood zones. The base case was the flooding predicted from a 100-year storm event under current environmental conditions. The impacts of flooding on critical and essential facilities under current conditions were then compared to three sea level rise scenarios included in the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan over three time periods of 10, 25, and 50 years to provide state and local officials with tool that can be used to prioritize locations and facilities requiring nonstructural protection.

By comparing these potential flood maps to current land use cover it is possible to see where the residents and facilities facing the greatest risk are located. This information is also combined with modeled storm surge data developed for Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan, record research, and on-the-ground observations, to assemble a picture of not only the flood risk that communities face now, but what they could face into the future. This is a first step in planning for climate change and sea level rise. Louisiana is to be applauded for planning for the future that is going to happen.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Final Phase of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from waste water treatment plants, agriculture, urban and suburban runoff, septic systems, air pollution and other sources have impaired the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters. These pollutants cause algae blooms that consume oxygen and create dead zones where fish and shellfish cannot survive, block sunlight that is needed for underwater grasses, and smother aquatic life on the bottom.

Since the 1980’s the six bay states- Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York-and Washington DC have been trying to clean up the Chesapeake Bay with some, but not enough progress as inconsistent levels of effort were put into the task across all the jurisdictions. As a result, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, mandated a contamination limit called the TMDL (total maximum daily load for nutrient contamination and sediment) to restore the local waters.

The TMDL sets a total Chesapeake Bay watershed limit for the six states and Washington DC of 185.9 million pounds of nitrogen, 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus and 6.45 billion pounds of sediment per year which was about 25% reduction in nitrogen, 24% reduction in phosphorus and 20 % reduction in sediment from the 2011 levels. The pollution limits were then partitioned to the various states and river basins based on the Chesapeake Bay computer modeling tools and monitoring data.

The six states and Washington DC were required to submit and have approved by the EPA a detailed plan of how they intended to achieve their assigned pollution reduction goals. These plans, Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), laid out a series of pollution control measures that need to be put in place by 2025, with 60% of the steps to have been completed by the mid-point assessment in 2017.

While it will take years after 2025 for the Bay and its tributaries to fully heal, EPA expects that once the required pollution control measures are in place there will be gradual and continued improvement in water quality as the nutrient and sediment run off is reduced and there is better control storm water so that the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem can heal itself.

About half of the 39,490 square mile land area of Virginia is drained by the creeks, streams and rivers that comprise the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and two-thirds of the state's population lives within the watershed. To develop a remediation plan acceptable to the EPA and likely to achieve the goals of the revised WIP, the state legislature passed a series of laws and the state implemented a series of regulations addressing among other items: nutrient management plans, septic regulations, limitations of the sale and use of lawn maintenance fertilizer, banning deicing agents containing urea, nitrogen, or phosphorus intended for application on parking lots roadways, and sidewalks, or other paved surfaces, etc.

At the mid-point assessment the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program found that overall “Virginia has made progress in wastewater and agriculture, but needs to improve stormwater cost-share programs, account for growth in poultry farming, and strengthen MS4 requirements.” Right now Virginia has begun work on the third and final iteration of their clean-up plans, known as the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). These plans will describe actions to take, between now and 2025—the deadline for full implementation.

Virginia has made substantial progress towards addressing pollution to satisfy the Chesapeake Bay TMDL goals, especially in wastewater but also in agriculture. There has also been progress reducing polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas, although any progress has been overshadowed by increased land conversion from agricultural uses and permit delays. Looking forward, Virginia must make a substantial shift toward reducing pollution from stormwater, agriculture, and septic systems. The One of the most important steps to addressing these issues is establishing strong incentives for local governments and ensuring they have all the tools and resources necessary to succeed.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Horses and the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters have been impaired by the release of excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. These pollutants cause algae blooms that consume oxygen and create dead zones where fish and shellfish cannot survive, block sunlight that is needed for underwater grasses, and smother aquatic life on the bottom. These pollutants are released from waste water treatment plants, agricultural operations, urban and suburban runoff, wastewater facilities, air pollution and other sources that enter the tributaries and Chesapeake Bay.

The EPA mandated a contamination limit called the TMDL (total maximum daily load for nutrient contamination and sediment) to all the states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Washington DC. Though EPA set the TMDL goals, each state and the district created their own plans for meeting those goals. The pollution limits were partitioned to the various states and river basins based on the Chesapeake Bay computer modeling tools and monitoring data.

Virginia created a plan called the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) of how they intend to achieve their assigned pollution reduction goals. Under this cleanup plan Virginia has completed wastewater treatment plant improvements and expansions. Reducing nutrient and sediment pollution from agriculture is a significant goal of the WIP for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. An often stated fact is that agriculture is the largest source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. What is usually not reported is that agriculture is also the largest source of nutrient pollution because it is the largest active land use in the region not because agriculture is more polluting than other land uses. According to the Chesapeake Bay model, agricultural land represents almost twice the land as the developed areas.

Most of agriculture serves one purpose, to provide food. For agricultural operations the phase III of the WIP will require the implementation of resource management plans on most agricultural acres which may include: 35 foot grass or forest buffers between cropland and perennial surface waters; stream exclusion of livestock over time; and implemented nutrient management plans. The Commonwealth provides cost-share funding to achieve implementation of these best practices through the soil and water conservation districts and the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program (BMPs).

Agricultural BMPs are approved and quantified methods of farming and animal agriculture practices to ensure reductions in the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution going to waterways within the Bay Watershed. Reducing pollution from agriculture and converting acreage to stream buffers and restoring wetlands is the cheapest way to reduce pollution, and the state’s WIP expect to get 75 % of their nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution reductions from agriculture. Each county of Virginia must meet its individual mandated reductions in the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. There is less commercially cultivated land in northern Virginia than there once was. Much of the land that was formerly cultivated or used in the production of food has been converted to suburban residential and commercial use. Stables, racetracks and boarding facilities expanded in areas near cities as suburbia continued to expand into the state's rural areas. Horses are ridden, raced, bred and sold, used for recreation, and at least in the United States distinct from the rest of animal agriculture in that horses aren't food.

Nonetheless, the EPA model for the Chesapeake Bay watershed counts horses as agricultural livestock and, as with cows and chickens, their manure is a nutrient that can become a pollutant in the region's waterways. According to the Bay Journal Virginia has approximately 215,000 horses and each horse is estimated to requires two acres of land. In addition, a fully grown horse of approximately 1,000 pounds produces 40 – 50 pounds of feces and urine daily. This represents about nine tons of waste per year! Without a good waste management practice, waste grows out of control and becomes a source of pollution that washes off the land into nearby water bodies carrying nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), bacteria and pathogens into our water ways.

Horses represent a significant amount of “agricultural” pollution. Data from the Bay Friendly Horse Farm demonstration project in Prince William County, Virginia found that before the installation of BMPs soil and sediment loss was 0.95 tons per acre per year and that soil was carrying nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria and pathogens into our waterway. If the Bay Journal data is correct than there are 408,500 tons of soil and sediment is carried away in storm water each year.

Recognizing the magnitude of its horse industry, Maryland began making horse operations eligible for cost-share programs to help pay for best management practices like fencing off streams in the 1990s. Pennsylvania horse farms only recently became eligible for state cost-share funds. In Virginia, horse operations are not eligible for the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program.

Horse people run farms but are not necessarily farmers. Traditionally, horse owners don't raise crops, besides grass on pastures, and they aren't as naturally intertwined with the agricultural agencies and Soil and Water Conservation Districts that provide assistance with conservation measures and advise, but at the end of the day, horse operations are a part of agriculture, and we need their help to reach the EPA mandated reductions in the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Monday, June 25, 2018

How we did for the 2018 Occoquan River Clean-up

Belmont Bay Paddlers 

The 9th annual Upper Occoquan cleanup was held over the weekend April 21st -22nd weekend . This cleanup covers a ¼ mile of Broad Run, and a 25 mile stretch of the Occoquan River from below the Lake Jackson Dam passing put-in/take-out sites at Riverview Estates, Occoquan Forest, Canon Bluff, Lake Ridge Marina, Hooes Run. Over 298 Volunteers (76 on the water in canoes/kayaks) collected 410 trash bags, 59 tires and 10-50 gallon barrels. Over 11,067 pounds of trash was removed from the river and its banks. Volunteers cleaned up debris on the water, land or assisted in moving the debris on shore to waiting trucks or dumpsters.

This massive collection of trash from the Occoquan River happens every year and on this side of the river and on the river and is the combined effort of the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department, Public Works, Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition, the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Fairfax Water Authority, Izzak Walton League, and the Home Owners Associations at the put-ins/take out sites as well as; the Occoquan Watertrail League (OWL) () and several bordering Homeowners Associations, as well as the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Bradley Forest Recreation Association, Belmont Bay Neighborhood, Devils Reach Road Condo Association, and Dunbarton HOA.

The cleanup also had volunteers from George Mason University students, Northern Virginia Geocaching Organization, Penguin Paddling, American Nepal Society, Boy Scout Troop 43, Scout Cub Pack 1831, Prince William Rowing Club, Lake Ridge Middle School, Parkside Middle School, and the Lake Ridge Community. Some volunteers came from neighboring Counties. Six-storm water ponds and four other land areas were also cleaned.

The Occoquan River Cleanup is part of the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup coordinated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation working with the region’s soil and water conservation districts, community groups, employers, and schools happens every year. The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is the largest regional event of its kind and happens over several weekends every spring. It is a great single day volunteer opportunity.

Unfortunately, it is necessary to hold these river cleanups annually. Year after year volunteers clean our roadways, streams, rivers, and streambeds of trash that started as litter and carried along by stormwater and wind into our waterways and parks. We also remove items that were illegally dumped in the woods or carried by off by storms. Don’t litter and teach your children not to litter, that is the best way to prevent trash along our roads, streams and waterways. The trash does not magically disappear, but finds its way carried by stormwater to our waterways and parklands disrupting the natural water flow and beauty of our natural world. 
Prince William County hauling away collected trash