Comments sought on watershed TMDL plans

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Mar 06, 2013 - 01:07 PM

TMDL plans for 15 creeks and one section of river in Gloucester, Mathews and Middlesex counties have been completed and are ready to receive public comment. The total cost for full implementation of all 16 plans is expected to be approximately $6.2 million.

TMDL stands for total maximum daily load, which means the amount of a contaminant that a water body can accept and still meet clean water standards. A TMDL study establishes the reduction in load needed to restore a water body.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has been working with other state agencies, local county governments, and local residents and business owners since last May to develop the plans, which are based on water quality information gathered by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and included in studies conducted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from 2005 to 2007. However, subsequent assessments were deemed necessary, and field studies were conducted in 2012.

The affected creeks are Edwards, Queens, Stutts, Morris, Billups, Lanes, Hudgins and Barns creeks in the Gwynn’s Island and Milford Haven watersheds; Harper, French’s, Ferry and Dancing creeks, and the upper Piankatank River in the upper Piankatank River watershed; and Wilton, Healy and Cobbs creeks in the lower Piankatank River watershed.

All 16 water bodies have been wholly or partially condemned by the VDH for the taking of shellfish because of fecal coliform bacteria. Although only nine of the creeks and the upper Piankatank were included in the initial DEQ studies, the other six creeks were added at the request of local residents because of their condemnations. The TMDL plans deal only with fecal coliform, not with such nutrients as nitrogen and phosphorus.