DEQ and Coors part II

Brent Finnegan -- June 20th, 2007

On the continuing saga of fishkills and industrial waste in the local waterways:

Out of the 11 items the Riverkeepers requested the DEQ change in the Coors plant permit, DEQ elected to immediately change four of them for “increased protection of the Shenandoah River.” No word on the other seven Riverkeeper requests.

But Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble isn’t sure how much good that will do. Jeff posted in the comments here, “The last time I thought I’d made good substantive legal arguments in the case of Merck’s permit, after DEQ again changed several provisions of the permit, the water control board went ahead with the new permit as DEQ had recommended. I hope we don’t get a repeat, and if we do, I have to sit down with my council at UVA’s Environmental Law Clinic and decide whether we’ll appeal to the courts.”

Both Merck and Coors have expanded, or announced plans to expand operations within the last year.

The state Water Control Board is set to review the Riverkeepers’ arguments on the Coors plant Wednesday, June 27th at 9:30 AM. The Water Control Board will decide on how to issue the final permit.

17 Responses to “DEQ and Coors part II”

  1. What is the draw from the river by these 2 companies?

    I was reading a fishwrap article yesterday about PPL wanting to built a 3rd reactor in Berwick PA. With the number provided, each unit comsumes 10 BILLION gallons of water per year from the Susqeuhanna (sp). To me that is an amzing amount of water…but does it equate to better energy???

  2. Finnegan, congrats on your award from WVPT in the dn-r today(6-21-07). Way to go!

  3. Lowell Fulk says:

    Great Job Brent! Good picture too.
    Look out French Film Festival!!!

  4. Emmy says:

    Congratulations Brent!!

  5. Chris says:

    I don’t know about Coors and its impact on the fishkills – though I have a strong suspicion (maybe it’s because my office is just up the street from the South River, which empties into the Shenandoah) about the old DuPont and GE in Waynesboro and their impact.
    I frequent a public park in Grottoes just up the road from my home in Northern Augusta County. The park is bordered on its west end by the South River, and there is public access to spots along the river in the park. My niece and I were there one day this spring seeing how many different species of water life we could find when we noticed several dead fish float by. The next day, I had a news release in my in-box about fish kills discovered in the river.
    Grottoes is downstream from Waynesboro – about 15 miles or so.
    Whatever killed those fish could have originated from anywhere – and yet still I wonder.

  6. finnegan says:

    Thanks, guys. Just wait till you see the one I’m working on now…

    Chris, I feel the same way. And probably so does Jeff K. It’s been said here before (and I agree) that it’s probably not just one point-source. It’s farm run-off, it’s sewage, it’s people not cleaning up after their pets, it’s run-off from the neighborhoods, and it’s the factories like DuPont, Coors, and Merck. We’re probably all equally guilty here, but something needs to change.

  7. Change is hard to swallow for some folks and I don’t get it. I still see people empty their ashtrays at the light at Res. and University, people leaving boxes on the ground at COSTCO and all the litter they leave behind at the numerous (including Grottoes) boat landing I visit to collect firewood and debris that storms wash up on shore.

    Absolutley no resaon to litter.

  8. Oh yeah…Congrats Fin ~ good work hardly ever goes unrecognized !

  9. Bubby says:

    There are at least two issues here:

    1).Coors will be pumping much larger quantities of of nutrient (Phosphorus, Nitrogen) into the river along with Suspended Solids. These degrade water quality, and damage the bottom dwelling bugs that would clean the river.

    2) Nutrification in general. I’m intrigued by Riverkeeper Kelble’s observation that the fishkill locations are overlayed by the location of poultry litter land application sites. As any bird-rancher knows, birds are full of pathogens – most of which are poorly understood. And poultry waste is the most nutrient-concentrated manure in the valley.

    The low flow, and warming spring waters of our Valley rivers, combined with too many dissolved nutrients together make the perfect environment for cyanobacteria, a primitive algae-like animal that secretes toxins to kill it’s prey and create rotting flesh in which to continue its life cycle. A very, very small amount of this toxin can cause ulceration.

    Monitoring for bacteria in water is tricky. The sampling is difficult and the lab work requires skill and careful handling. In addition, the amount of cyanobacteria, or other bacterial contaminant required is way small. I believe that is why we haven’t pinned down the culprit.

    But we already know one large suspect – over-nutrification of our rivers. That is why reduction of nutrients is so important to improving water quality in the Shen, Cowpasture, Potomac, and James.

    I urge anyone who is concerned about good stewardship of our commonwealth to support efforts to reduce nutrient discharge to the river, and continued funding for river ecology studies.

  10. Rapanui says:

    Finnegan-your various point-sources actually do point to ONE source…OVERPOPULATION of humans (the source of almost all our social and political ills),and the subsequent voracious need to develope land and produce for this over-consuming, overpopulation.

  11. finnegan says:

    Rapanui, I’d love to disagree with you, but I don’t know if I can.

  12. Rapanui says:

    You know, back in the 1990’s, North Carolina had a fish kill problem in the lower Neuse River (around New Bern).

    After years of inaction and finger pointing by the State, the local people screamed loud enough to get various studies conducted and the culprit was found to be a dinoflagellate called Pfiesteria. An algae-like organism (cousin the dinoflagellate that causes “red tide”) that thrives in low oxygen, high nutrient load water sources.

    Although Pfiesteria is not known at this time to inhabit inland waters, maybe we ought to start samplin’ and testin’.

  13. Bubby says:

    You may want to read this article about similar small mouth bass fishkills in the Susquehanna drainage. There the Pa. Fish Commission determined that Flavorbacterium columnare was causing the lesions.

    Again, the problem with bacterium is that they bloom, kill, and then change their form – sinking back into the bottom. Pfisteria Piscicide is thought to have between 10 and 24 life stages. They are very curious, have complex life cycles, and are poorly understood. And once a fish is sick, many parasite bac join the predatory bac that attacked the fish. Dr. Burkholder at NC State spent 10 years learning how to culture and figure out that one critter!

  14. finnegan says:

    I suppose there are no real surprises here: the DEQ ok’d the permit.

  15. Bubby says:

    (Keith) Fowler (VDEQ), however, said recent monitoring indicated conditions were worse upstream from the discharge point, and most likely caused by “nonpoint source pollution.”

    Huh? So what?

    Then pulling on his Wizard’s Chapeau (or is that a Dunce Cap?) we hear intoned;

    Fowler said the permit allowing for expanded discharge wouldn’t further harm the river.

  16. finnegan says:

    Agreed. Absolutely ridiculous.

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