Multiple Charlottesville streams listed as altered by Virginia DEQ

Rivanna River, Meadow Creek, Moores Creek, Schenks Branch, and Lodge Creek have been identified by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality as impaired due to excessive levels of sediment and/or bacteria.

Other waterways in Charlottesville face similar challenges, although they have not been formally assessed by the DEQ.

The City of Charlottesville partners with the Rivanna Conservation Alliance, a volunteer-supported nonprofit organization that conducts certified biological and bacterial stream monitoring throughout the Rivanna River watershed, including at locations in and around Charlottesville. Biological monitoring measures the ability of a watercourse to support aquatic life.

The results of recent and past RCA biological monitoring are available here: www.rivannariver.org/long-term-monitoring-program.

Bacteria monitoring measures the amount of E.coli bacteria in waterways. Bacteria levels are an indicator used to determine if the water is safe for swimming and other water recreation. High levels of bacteria indicate that there is a higher risk of illness from exposure to disease-causing organisms in water. Bacteria levels naturally fluctuate but tend to be high after rain events.

Recent RCA monitoring found consistently high bacteria levels in two Charlottesville creeks, Pollocks Branch and Meade Creek. The city and RCA are working together to identify and treat the sources of the high levels of bacteria. Until further notice, the public is advised to avoid direct contact with these streams.

Signs advising visitors to exercise caution have been posted along these waterways in public areas. Recent and past RCA bacteria monitoring results for Pollocks Branch, Meade Creek and other Charlottesville waterways can be viewed here: www.rivannariver.org/bacteria.

Pollocks Branch is a local waterway that flows underground in a pipe from the Downtown Mall south under IX Art Park, where it resurfaces just south of Elliott Avenue. It then crosses the South First Street neighborhood of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and continues through Jordan Park and into Moores Creek.

Meade Creek is a local waterway that begins under Garden Street and Walnut Street in the Belmont neighborhood. It then flows north in an underground pipe under the Norfolk Southern and East Market Street railway tracks before resurfacing east of 12e Street NE and crossing Meade Park before entering the Rivanna River.

Even when bacteria levels are not high, it is still advisable to follow some practical guidelines when interacting with urban waterways:

  • Do not come into contact with a watercourse during or shortly after a rain event. Pollutant levels in waterways are higher at these times because they are carried into the waterways by rainwater through the stormwater drainage system. Muddy looking water is often an indicator of high levels of pollutants.
  • Do not come into contact with a watercourse if you have any open cuts, sores or sores on your body.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer after contact with water and especially before eating.
  • Do not ingest stream water or sediment; avoid getting water from the creek in your eyes, ears, nose or mouth.
  • Wear shoes to protect your feet.

Everyone in Charlottesville can play a role in helping protect the health of our urban waterways and the Rivanna River. Here are some actions you can take:

  • Educate yourself – check out the Charlottesville Area Stream Health website to learn more about the Rivanna River watershed, the health of its streams, and ways you can help
  • Never throw anything down a storm drain – these drains go straight into our local waterways!
  • Pick up after your pet – animal waste can be a source of bacterial contamination in our waterways
  • Adopt environmentally friendly yard maintenance practices – use native plants, reduce or eliminate pesticide use, apply fertilizers based on a soil test and at the right time of year
  • Report water pollution and suspected sources of pollution through the City’s Pollution Prevention Hotline.

For more information on interacting safely with waterways, see the Virginia Department of Health’s pamphlet, “Safely Enjoy Natural Waters.”

For more information on water quality, DEQ’s role in assessing streams, the process by which streams are listed as impaired, and the resulting cleanup process, visit the DEQ website.

About Wesley V. Finley

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