Natalie Pien contributed the wonderful article below for our next issue of the Habitat Herald. Due to the timeliness of it, I wanted to be sure to share it with you here. We need to take action now:
Protecting Our Streams
Streams in Loudoun County need protection. A 2009 study, funded in part by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of 200 stream sites throughout Loudoun, found that 78% of the stream miles were stressed or severely stressed due to poor water quality.
The Loudoun County Water Resources report published findings that bacteria in 63% to 83% of streams sampled between 2005 and 2009 exceeded the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) limits for recreation/swimming. In 2007, DEQ posted Health Advisories along Broad Run and Goose Creek warning against eating fish due to the presence of PCB’s in fish tissue.
Water pollution occurs when land-use changes from natural forests and meadows to any one of a variety of uses, such as agriculture, residential, commercial, or industrial. Pollution from these different land uses can be classified as either Point Source pollution or Non-Point Source pollution. Factories or sewage treatment plants are examples of Point Source pollution because the pollutants discharge from a pipe at a specific point/location on a stream. Point Source pollution is regulated by EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
Non-Point Source pollution refers to pollutants that enter a stream not at a specific point through a single pipe, but at multiple points wherever rain water runoff flows overland and enters a stream. The type of pollutant that enters a stream depends on the particular type of land use. For example, in residential areas, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides improperly applied to lawns and gardens can be washed off the land and carried to streams by rain water runoff.
Agriculture can result in similar types of pollutants and livestock can introduce bacteria and sediment to streams. Oil, de-icing chemicals, and particles deposited on paved surfaces can end up in streams through runoff. Unlike Point Source pollution, Non-Point Source pollution is difficult to quantify and regulate and, while not regulated now, it likely will be in the near future.
As land use changes from natural conditions, impervious surfaces such as rooftops and pavement prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground. Instead, the amount of rain water runoff increases, resulting in stream water velocity increasing to erosive speeds.
Pollution from Non-Point Sources can be effectively reduced by “Mother Nature’s Filters,” otherwise known as Riparian Buffers. Riparian Buffers are areas of land adjacent to streams that are protected so that trees and other vegetation can grow. Riparian Buffers have many benefits, including:
- 70% reduction of sediment pollution that can smother aquatic organisms;
- 40% reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers that cause algae blooms and subsequent oxygen depletion;
- decreased rain water runoff velocity to reduce erosion of stream banks;
- decreased volume of rain water runoff by allowing it to soak into the ground;
- habitat and corridors for wildlife;
- organic matter input to streams by leaf litter;
- shade to keep stream water temperature lower and hold more oxygen for aquatic life.
(For a thorough and excellent description of Riparian Buffers, see the Fall issue of the Habitat Herald, Volume XII, Issue 3.)
Currently, Riparian Buffers are not protected in Loudoun County. Witness the destruction of over 400 trees along the Potomac River on the Trump National Golf Course (Washington Postarticle August 13, 2010). Riparian Buffers need to be protected to help maintain clean and healthy streams.
We all need clean water to drink, bathe, grow and prepare our food. The Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) would protect Riparian Buffers in all parts of Loudoun County, agricultural and residential alike (visit Loudoun Clean Streams Coalition to learn more about the ordinance). On September 21, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) will consider the CBPO.
You are called upon to act on behalf of our current generation and future generations by protecting water resources today. Put your environmental conscience into action by doing any or all of the following, now:
- contact your supervisor by phone or by e-mail urging a vote to move forward on the CBPO;
- visit the Loudoun Clean Stream Coalition for sample letters to the BOS;
- attend an information session in your area (see Blog for dates);
- attend the BOS Public Input Session on September 20 to speak or show your support (contact Loudoun Clean Streams Coalition for assistance.)
- inform your friends, colleagues, neighbors;
- post a flier (visit Loudoun Clean Streams Coalition for a copy to print) at health food stores, coffee shops, libraries, community centers, doctors’ offices (with permission, of course).
- sign the petition.
Your help is crucial to ensure that the CBPO moves forward.