Fish in Blacks Run

Thanh -- July 20th, 2008

On June 19, a group from the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries led by Steve Reeser & Paul Bugas went out to take several fish samples in Blacks Run. The group sampled at three locations in Blacks Run – one near Our Community Place, one in Purcell Park, and one just south of City limits off the Route 704 (Cecil Wampler Road) bridge just beyond where Blacks Run converges with Cooks Creek. What they found was both very promising and yet also showed that there was more to be done by our community to improve water quality.

At the first two sites, Paul had the following to say in an email: “Blacks Run at Community Park (near Little Grill) is very small and contained only one fish species. Basically, it begins as a spring creek at this location, complete with watercress beds. At Purcell Park, our middle station, the fish community was diverse, abundant, and healthy. In fact, it is a much larger spring stream at this point with potential recreational capabilities. No sign of poor fish health was noted here… Because Blacks Run is partly an urban stream, my initial impression from this survey is that the fish population is what we expected to see at Purcell Park (minus smallmouth bass and rock bass) and at Community Park.”

Near OCP the group found 11 Blacknose dace. At Purcell Park the group found a staggering 226 fish, species including: Bluehead chub (18), blacknose dace (49), fathead minnow (11), redbreast sunfish (14), common shiner (44), green sunfish (2), white sucker (16), bluntnose minnow (66) and banded killfish (6).

Off Route 704, he says: “At our lower sample spot, close to where Blacks Run joins Cooks Creek, the stream is quite degraded and you can see this through a drop in diversity, species composition, and numbers. What was disturbing is that two of the white suckers collected had bloody lesions in their fins and along their bodies. One sunfish had the classic “cigarette burn” type of lesion near its dorsal fin.” At this site they only found 71 fish. The decrease in the number and the deterioration of health in fish found downstream is attributable to poorly managed land (both agricultural and industrial) and/or pollution that has yet to be identified (could be point or nonpoint source pollution).

Sam Hottinger, city staff, had the following to say about the data: “When we did the first flood study work in 2001, we noted that the fish around Pleasant Valley road had lesions. This was just from observing them swimming around. At that time, there were very few fish from Pleasant Valley Road up to the beginning of the stream, other than White suckers. Since then, I have noted perch up to the parking deck. Since we have started working on Blacks Run I have seen a big difference in the number and type of fish that I have seen in the upstream areas.”

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been doing annual/bi-annual sampling of macro invertebrates in Blacks Run since Fall 2004. When I last received details on their testing and results, from Spring 2007, it was shared with me that based on the types of macro invertebrates found, the stream is still impaired. The stream is dominated by pollution tolerant midges and worms. DEQ also monitors for fecal colifom bacteria. I recall speaking with a DEQ staff member within the last year and hearing that the fecal coliform violation rates in Blacks Run has improved, but I can’t find any data online specific to Blacks Run (Blacks Run is generally lumped together with Cooks Creek in reports – when I have time I’ll ask for specific Blacks Run data to share). The staff member also said that although the violation rates have improved, they’re still high. For example this website has information on Cook Creek’s violation rates between 1995-1999 (95.08% violation) and 2000-2004 (72.97% violation) which is a 22.11% improvement. The state’s fecal coliform standard is an 11% violation rate – we’ve got more to do to see the rates at/below the state standard.

And although there is no previous fish count data to compare June 19th’s results to, there have been many individuals in the community who have shared with me the improvements they have seen in the health of Blacks Run, and also how much less trash they see in the stream (thanks to Clean Up Day, Adopt-A-Street, and greater community awareness and participation).

To learn more about how you can help improve water quality, visit

6 Responses to “Fish in Blacks Run”

  1. BillyVW says:

    You can find raw water quality data (including bacteria numbers) from DEQ’s database at However, I just looked at it, and it appears to be a few months behind in updates. The latest bacteria data is from March 2008. I left a message with the database administrator, but he’ll be out until next week.

    Select watershed B26R for Blacks Run’s data.

  2. David Miller says:

    So as the waterway approaches the landfill it degrades in water quality or at least the barometric measures of such quality?

  3. Thanh says:

    David, I don’t understand your question. Would you mind expanding on that thought?

  4. Justin C says:

    Thanks Thanh and Billy, great information! It’s very encouraging to hear progress is being made. Maybe this can be used put together an even bigger crowd at next year’s Clean Up Day.

    I too would like to know more about what Dave was getting at.

  5. Thanh says:

    Here’s a cool flash video on Cooks Creek/ Blacks Run TMDLs and improvements by DEQ,

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