RD624 - 2015-2016 Report on Toxics Reduction in State Waters - January 1, 2017
From 1997 through 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), on behalf of the State Water Control Board, submitted the annual Toxics Reduction in State Waters (TRISW) Report to the Governor and General Assembly of the Commonwealth on January 1st of each year, in accordance with Virginia Code § 62.1-44.17:3. That Code section requires the State Water Control Board to conduct ongoing assessments of the amounts of toxics in Virginia's waters, develop and implement a plan for the reduction of toxics in Virginia's waters, and report on those efforts to the General Assembly. In 2015 the General Assembly amended the code such that the Report is now required biennially. This Report is the first under the new reporting schedule.
The primary objective of the TRISW Report is to document the Commonwealth’s progress toward reducing toxics in state waters and consequently improving water quality. The Department’s efforts to reduce toxics include three principal types of activities: (1) the prevention of contamination of the Commonwealth’s waters by toxics, (2) the continued monitoring of those waters for the presence of toxics and (3) the implementation of remedial measures to reduce and/or eliminate toxics found in the Commonwealth’s waters.
Permitting: Compliance monitoring, the monitoring of in-pipe concentrations of permitted discharges, is one essential element of the prevention of contamination by toxics of the Commonwealth’s waters. During State Fiscal Years (SFY) 2015 and 2016, DEQ’s Toxics Management Program (TMP) included 284 and 272 facilities, respectively, with 679 and 653 outfalls that had active permit-defined toxics limits in their effluents, as recorded in DEQ’s Comprehensive Environmental Data System (CEDS) database. During SFY15, 286 facilities reported their discharge monitoring results. Among 6,611 parameter-specific Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) filed during SFY15, 3,750 contained permit-specified maximum concentration limits, and a total of 98 (2.61%) exceeded those limits. During SFY16 the same attributes were 6,983 parameter-specific DMRs, 2,802 with permit-specified maximum concentration limits, and 75 (2.68%) exceedances. Many of these in each year (approximately 40%) were trivial, short-term violations for metals in the discharge stream at municipal wastewater treatment facilities: total recoverable Copper (~ 50% of short-term violations), and total recoverable Zinc (~ 30%). Various forms of Cadmium, Lead, Mercury and Chromium exceedances averaged from 1% to 2% each year. Only eight violations during the two years were for organic compounds: naphthalene (N = 6, ~ 5%) and ethylbenzene (N = 2, ~ 1%).
Pollution Prevention: The 2016 Pollution Prevention Annual Report is available on the DEQ Website at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/PollutionPrevention.aspx. Among the highlights of Pollution Prevention (P2) successes affecting reduction of toxics in state waters in the past two years are the following:
• Virginia still provides performance-based permit fee discounts (from 2 to 20%) for “going beyond compliance.” In 2015, over $198,000 in fee discounts were distributed among Virginia Environmental Excellence Program (VEEP) facilities that implemented and carried out their Environmental Management System (EMS) plans. Fee discounts in 2016 totaled approximately $138,000.
• Based on the itemized summaries in the annual P2 Reports, environmental benefits from EMS plans include the following:
2014 (as reported in the 2015 Report) - 44,910 tons of non-hazardous wastes were recycled, and non-hazardous waste disposal was reduced by 1,461,506 tons. The use of hazardous materials decreased by 294 tons, and hazardous waste disposal was reduced by 187,216 tons. The emission of greenhouse gases was reduced by 49,558 tons. Total water use was reduced by 566,083,852 gallons, and recycled water use increased by 97,741,468 gallons. Reduced total energy usage was 1,291,647 million BTUs. Approximately $41 million in cost savings were realized during this process.
2015 (as reported in the 2016 Report) - increased recycled material usage by 34,543 tons, reduced hazardous material usage by 240 tons, and reduced total water use by 238,156,000 gallons. Use of recycled water increased by 88,732,500 gallons, greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 111,275 tons, and total energy consumption was reduced by 1,449,690 million BTUs, for a total cost savings of $41 million.
• DEQ’s Voluntary Mercury Reduction Initiatives also have been continued successfully. Three hundred two facilities now participate in the “Virginia Switch Out” Project for the recycling of automotive mercury switches. To date (2015) 117,715 switches have been collected, equating to 258.97 pounds of mercury. Totals are not yet available for 2016. Fifty-four facilities have accepted the “Virginia Fluorescent Lamp Recycling Challenge” and pledged to annually recycle over 54,000 energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs, which also contain small quantities of mercury. (Refer to DEQ’s Mercury Reduction website at: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/PollutionPrevention/MercuryReduction.aspx.
Environmental Education: The Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Office of Environmental Education (OEE) has contributed to toxics reduction with various activities. Educational programs reflect many types of experiences such as workshops, field days, and professional development of teachers and other educators. Events reflect contact time made through activities such as the State Fair, county fairs, and Earth Day special events. Self-guided experiences reflect activities individuals pursue for their own betterment at nature centers via self-guided walks and exploratory experiences. Technical assistance generally represents one-on-one consultations for conservation practices which can take place with homeowners, landowners, farmers, etc. Civic engagement activities can represent stewardship efforts such as trash clean-ups as well as citizen monitoring efforts for water quality. Environmental education includes elements in the prevention, monitoring, and remediation of toxics. Anti-litter and recycling activities reduce the introduction of toxic materials into Virginia’s waterways. Adopt-a-stream programs provide insight into recognizing existing and potential sources of pollution and cleanup activities remove toxics from streams. One of the most numerous items encountered in cleanup campaigns is cigarette butts, which are saturated with toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
In 2014, the Virginia Office of Environmental Education (DCR) began gathering information about statewide activities in a more organized and systematic manner, in an effort to efficiently quantify the efforts expended and the audiences reached by the Environmental Education Program. Basic questions that defined this effort were: How are programs delivered across the state? To whom are the programs delivered? And where do they occur? Program activity types were defined as: (1) civic engagement (service learning, citizen science and stewardship) reaching primarily children and youth, (2) educational programs directed at the community, (3) events attracting the general population and often involving institutions of higher education, (4) self-guided learning and site visits often involving professionals in the environmental sciences, and (5) technical assistance, primarily to fellow educators.
By 2015, more than two million individuals annually participated in more than 3,000 environmental educational activities across Virginia. Table 3.1.3-1 illustrates that the total number of confirmed participants essentially doubled between 2014 and 2015 (while the number of reporting organizations grew from 81 to 110). In 2015, approximately 20% of the individual participants were children and youth, while community and professional participation (including teachers, park rangers, master naturalists, etc.) comprised from approximately 37% to 39% each.
Environmental Education Participant Distribution by Activity Type – Calendar Years 2014 & 2015
Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is a nationally developed organization whose mission is to reach children, parents, teachers and community members of the world with water education. In the past year numerous formal and non-formal educators have been trained in WET through a series of DEQ-sponsored six-hour workshops. These educators have learned about the state of Virginia’s waters, have gained a better understanding of Virginia’s watersheds, examined the impacts that humans have on the Commonwealth’s waters, and studied best management practices. Each of these educators received the Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0, a full-color 592-page book with 64 multi-disciplinary water related activities, to use as they educate Virginia’s children. Additional information about Project WET can be found on DEQ’s website at: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/EnvironmentalInformation/ProjectWet.aspx.
The Watershed Educators Institute (WEI), unique to DEQ, was established in 2010 with a three year BWET grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to train non-formal educators so that they may coordinate with formal educators on Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE) for students. DEQ has received another three year NOAA B-WET grant to continue this objective and build the network between formal and non-formal educators. The WEI consists of a series of ten one- and two-day workshops on a variety of water quality and watershed topics:
• Assessing the Health of a Watershed – Part 1
• Assessing the Health of a Watershed – Part 2
• Designing and Leading a MWEE for School Groups, (held two times since it is a required workshop)
• Introducing Watersheds
• Methods of Teaching Biological Assessment of Stream Health
• Freshwater Wetland Investigation
• Coastal Wetland Investigation
A participant who receives 30 hours of training is formally recognized as a watershed educator leader in Virginia.
Toxics Release Inventory (TRI): Pursuant to the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), the Commonwealth maintains a Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) that documents the total quantities of EPA-listed toxic compounds that are released annually to water, air and the land by permitted facilities within the Commonwealth. Changes in the quantities of toxics released are indicative of the effectiveness of pollution prevention programs, but are not an adequate or representative measure of environmental impact or impairment. The Virginia EPCRA Program is not a federally delegated program; therefore, it is strictly a federal program. The program was established to assist communities in emergency planning and response and communities’ right-to-know. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not have enforcement authority over the program.
The most recent TRI Reports are available on the DEQ website at: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Air/AirQualityPlanningEmissions/SARATitleIII.aspx. The most recent (March 2016) summarizes data from calendar year 2014, during which 436 Virginia facilities filed 1,361 individual reports on the release, transfer, or management of TRI chemicals or chemical categories. Statewide toxic releases to the water totaled approximately 11.16 million pounds or 31.73% of the total onsite releases to all media during 2014. This quantity represents a 5.09% decrease compared to what was released to the water in 2012. In 2014 nitrate compounds (11.84 million pounds) represented 97.12% of all TRI chemicals released to water. Nitrates, however, are of much more concern for their effects as nutrients rather than as toxics. Toxics criteria for dissolved nitrates in drinking water were not exceeded during the period 2007 – 2012, the assessment window for the 2014 Integrated Report.
Water Quality Monitoring (WQM) Programs: Ambient water quality monitoring consists of the measurement of physical and chemical characteristics within the Commonwealth’s streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries. Ambient monitoring (and assessment) characterizes ecological stressors and evaluates their potential impact on aquatic organisms and other wildlife, and on human health and recreational use of Virginia’s waters.
Summer (June - September) of 2016 was the sixteenth year of DEQ’s Estuarine Probabilistic Monitoring (ProbMon) Program and the spring and fall of 2016 comprised the sixteenth year of its Freshwater ProbMon Program. Because of resource limitations, the sampling and analysis for sediment organic contaminants was suspended at freshwater ProbMon sites in SFY07. Sediment chemistry (metals and organics) sampling and analyses and sediment toxicity testing have continued at estuarine ProbMon sites during the 2015 and 2016 field seasons (SFY16 and SFY17) with resources provided by a probabilistic survey-targeted supplement to the federal §106 grant and DEQ general funds.
In the 2016 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Integrated Assessment Report (2016 Integrated Report or IR), sediment chemistry, sediment toxicity and benthic taxonomic results from DEQ’s Estuarine Probabilistic Monitoring Program were used for toxics-related “Weight-of-Evidence” assessments of Aquatic Life Use (ALU) at 273 estuarine sites sampled over the most recent six years (2009 – 2014). These results, primarily from minor tidal tributaries, complement those from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s benthic probabilistic monitoring program, which emphasizes the Bay mainstem and extensive mainstem areas of major tidal tributaries. Chapter 4.5 “RESULTS OF ESTUARINE PROBABILISTIC MONITORING 2009-2014” of the 2016 IR summarized the characterizations of all 273 estuarine ProbMon sites sampled during the six-year assessment window. Most of the analytical data from the summer 2015 Estuarine ProbMon Program (SFY16) are included in the tables and folders of this TRISW Report. (Some sediment chemistry results have not yet been released by EPA.) The Weight-of-Evidence assessments from the 2015 and 2016 estuarine surveys (an additional 100 sites) will be incorporated into the next Integrated Report, due in April of 2018.
During 2014 and 2015, DEQ’s Fish Tissue and Sediment Monitoring Program collected samples from 55 sites, primarily in the Potomac, James, New and Dan River basins. The sites were selected to gather supplemental analytical chemical data for the development and/or implementation of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for segments of water bodies which had been included in previous 305(b) Reports and 303(d) Impaired Water Listings due to contamination of fish by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), plus follow-up monitoring of the Dan River coal ash spill in February 2014. The results for the 2015 collections were received at the end of September, 2016. The data were evaluated for Quality Control, summarized, and sent to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) as well as to DEQ’s 305(b) assessors and TMDL staff for their use after the results and accompanying Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) were confirmed (October/ November, 2016). Results were then posted online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityMonitoring/FishTissueMonitoring.aspx.
Thirty-four sites were sampled for fish tissue and sediment during the summer and fall of 2016, in the Rappahannock, James River Basins (PCB TMDLs), and in the Dan/Roanoke River Basin in response to the Duke Energy coal ash spill. Four additional sites were sampled in embayments of the Potomac River, in response to a request from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for a snakehead special study. All samples were frozen until the end of the field season and shipped to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) for analysis. Analytical results are anticipated for September 2017, and following QA/QC review should be available for the January 2019 Toxics Report.
Plans have not yet been developed for fish tissue and sediment sampling during the 2017 field season. Regional TMDL Coordinators will request targeted TMDL monitoring with the preparation of the 2017 Monitoring Plan, due by the end of December 2016.
Assessment and Remediation
The 2014 Integrated 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Report (IR) was submitted to EPA Region 3 in December 2014. The delay in submission was at the request of EPA Region 3, which hoped to resolve unsettled questions from the 2012 IR relative to algal blooms in the Shenandoah River, prior to evaluating the 2014 IR. The 2014 IR was finally approved by EPA Region 3 in May of 2016, and is summarized in this TRISW Report. The 2016 IR has suffered similar delays, and will be summarized in the next TRISW Report, January 2019.
The 2014 IR assessment identified a total of 15,677 miles of impaired rivers (16% of all assessed river miles; EPA Assessment Categories 4 - 7% and 5 - 9%), 94,764 acres of lakes (81% of all assessed significant lakes; EPA Categories 4 – 13% and 5 – 68%), and 2,136 square miles of impaired estuaries (75% of all assessed estuaries; EPA Categories 4 – 3% and 5 – 73%). Of those impaired by toxics, over 99% were listed for fish consumption advisories, primarily for PCBs (26% of impaired river miles, 56% of impaired lake acres, and 98% of impaired estuaries) or mercury (63% of river miles, 42% of lake acres, and less than 1% of estuaries). These figures will be updated with the completion of the next Integrated Report in 2017. Because the number of segments united into each Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) varies with the hydrography and the extent of the impairment, the exact number and schedule of toxics-related TMDLs to be developed and implemented is not certain. DEQ’s PCB Strategy (2005) established priorities for TMDL development and discusses various options for remediation. Analyses for the 2016 Integrated Report are underway, and any new PCB-impaired segments will be integrated into the Strategy. Changes in the prevalence and geographic distribution of contaminants included in the 2016 Integrated Report will be discussed in the next (January 2019) Toxics Reduction Report.
Remediation / Reduction: Although no explicitly toxics-related TMDLs were submitted or approved during SFY15 and SFY16, several investigations into stressor analyses for benthic impairments and several PCB TMDL investigations are still under way. A number of draft TMDL Reports have been available for public comment over the past several years ( http://www.deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/TMDLDevelopment/DraftTMDLReports.aspx) , several of which were for benthic impairments and included evaluations of potential toxic stressors. In one case, for the Levisa Fork, Slate Creek, and Garden Creek, PCBs were of concurrent concern and in another, in the North Fork Powell, South Fork Powell and Powell Rivers, significant non-lethal effects of sediment toxicity were observed on juvenile mussels.
A Stressor Analysis Report for the benthic macroinvertebrate impairments in Holmes Run, Fairfax County, Virginia and Tripps Run, Fairfax County, Virginia, and the City of Falls Church, Virginia was completed in September 2014 and concluded that toxics, per se, were not indicated as stressors, although total dissolved solids and chlorides are still considered possible stressors. Other, more recent reports on the investigation have concluded that most primary stressors were not toxics related (sedimentation and hydromodification), although chlorides were implicated in one case: Stressor Analysis Report for the Benthic Macroinvertebrate Impairments in the Accotink Creek Watershed, Fairfax County, Virginia – September 2015.
PCB TMDL development:
Elizabeth/tidal James River: A PCB source investigation study has been on-going in these water bodies as part of TMDL development. PCB point source monitoring was requested from those Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permittees identified as possible contributors to fish impairments. A more accurate accounting of regulated stormwater (MS4 outfalls) is also underway. The available information generated from these studies is to be used in the development of PCB loadings. The TMDL, which is currently scheduled to be completed in 2017, is expected to establish PCB reductions needed to attain the fish consumption use of these impairments.
New River: The New River, beginning at the I-77 Bridge and extending to the West Virginia line, has been the focus of an extensive PCB source investigation study. The study was initiated in 2010 and has included several iterations of ambient river PCB monitoring within the impairment. Large tributaries such as Peak Creek have also been investigated. In addition, PCB monitoring of permitted VPDES facilities has occurred for which data are now available to develop PCB loadings and to set reductions. A PCB TMDL should be completed by mid-2017.
In addition, monitoring for future TMDLs in fish tissue impairments by mercury has continued in the Rappahannock, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Chickahominy, James, Blackwater, Nottoway and Meherrin River watersheds.
The agency’s TMDL history, current status and development plans are available at: http://www.deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/TMDLDevelopment/DraftTMDLReports.aspx.
As these TMDLs are completed and scheduled for implementation, and others are added, follow-up monitoring will be initiated to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing toxic contamination. The effective implementation of these TMDLs should result in measurable reductions of contaminants in a number of the state’s watersheds within the next few years.
Two segments with toxics-related impairments (fish consumption and aquatic/wildlife) were approved for delisting in the 2014 IR (“Appendix K.2 – Delisted Toxics Impaired Segments – 2014 IR”). One segment is in the New River (2.3 stream miles), which had been previously listed for mercury in fish. The other segment is in an unnamed tributary of Seacorrie Swamp (1.5 stream miles), which had been previously listed for ammonia. This list will be updated following the submission and approval of the 2016 Integrated Report.
DEQ continues its commitment to toxics reduction by the prevention of contamination, continued water quality monitoring to detect contamination by toxics, and the implementation of remedial measures. The Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, the Pollution Prevention Program, and the Environmental Education Program, in conjunction with other agencies, programs and stakeholders, are working to promote public awareness, as well as to control and reduce toxics releases. The Toxics Release Inventory and various water programs constantly monitor and document the release to, and the presence and movement of toxics in aquatic environments. Close coordination between monitoring and assessment activities will help identify new sources of contamination as they occur and document the effectiveness of load allocations and other remedial measures developed and implemented by the TMDL Program. The agency anticipates significant reductions of toxics in the state’s waters as a result of continued TMDL implementation.