Archive for the ‘Streamwalking’ Category

Crooked Branch Contamination Investigation Spring 2012

During March and April of 2012, water quality monitors with the Reedy Creek Coalition (RCC) identified foul odors and elevated E. coli counts at a monitoring site on Crooked Branch, a tributary of Reedy Creek. The RCC notified the City of Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) regarding their observations and the DPU Pretreatment Program began an investigation on April 25, 2012. Environmental Technicians with DPU’s Pretreatment Program took water samples from the outfall where Crooked Branch daylights at Crutchfield Streetand submitted them to the Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant Laboratory for analysis. The Technicians also noted a foul, sewage-like odor, and turbid water at the outfall. The results of the samples were reported by the lab on April 30th and confirmed the findings of the RCC volunteers, indicating E. coli levels of 435 MPN (most probable number )/100 mL (milliliters) and ammonia of 0.8 mg/L (milligrams per Litre). The investigating Technicians returned to the site and began to trace the contamination upstream using a system map and a handheld YSI Professional Series meter with conductivity, pH (a measurement of acidity), ammonium, and DO (dissolved oxygen) probes. Concentrations of ammonium were observed to be as high as 2.2 mg/L at a manhole near Midlothian Turnpike and a strong sewage odor was detected. The next accessible manhole was on Brandon St, westof Belt Boulevard, where a strong sewage odor was noted but ammonium concentrations were found to be less than 1.0 mg/L. The investigators then proceeded to open manholes on the sanitary sewer line adjacent to the storm sewer and discovered that the sanitary line appeared to be significantly blocked and sewage was backed up in the line. The investigators notified DPU Sewer Maintenance personnel regarding the backup and a crew was dispatched on May 1st to address the problem. On May 3rd the investigating Technicians returned to the Crooked Branch outfall and noted that there were no foul odors detectable and that the water appeared to be much less turbid. Follow up sampling showed E. coli levels of 56 MPN/100 mL and ammonia concentrations of less than 0.1 mg/L at the outfall.

The correction of this issue means that significantly less bacteria and nutrients are now entering Reedy Creek through Crooked Branch. The success of this investigation also serves to highlight the benefits for water quality that can be achieved when the City and citizen groups work together to identify and address the problems facing our local waterways.

Written by:

John A. Allen,

Environmental Technician II

Richmond DPU

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What Is Streamwalking and Why Do We Do It?

When we walk the length of a stream, inspecting the banks and streambed for signs of erosion and pollution, we call that “streamwalking.”

All along the banks of an urban stream such as Reedy Creek are stormwater discharge outlets.  When a stream has been set in concrete (“channelized”), as has Reedy Creek, discharge pipes are built directly into the concrete walls.  Normally these should discharge water during storm events but be dry in dry weather.  When we streamwalk, we look for pipes that for some reason are discharging water even in dry weather.  This can happen because of cross connections of sanitary pipes to stormwater pipes or from infiltration of sewage from old, leaking sanitary sewer lines.

In January 2011 the Reedy Creek Coalition began a series of streamwalks along the entire length of Reedy Creek and some of its tributaries.  On our first such walk we discovered a large stormwater pipe that was actively discharging in dry weather, with the discharge emitting a strong sanitary sewage odor.

RCC Member Bill Shanabruch Inspecting a Pipe Emitting a Discharge in Dry Weather

This past October, Environmental Studies students from Randolph Macon College followed up these observations with Coliscan tests. Their results for the pipe with a strong sanitary sewer odor showed E. coli levels approximately 40-fold higher than the water quality standard of 235 colony-forming units per 100 ml. Within days, Richmond DPU discovered a damaged sanitary sewer line nearby and repaired it.

We hope you can help conduct additional streamwalks along Reedy Creek. On Saturday, June 9, we will meet at Miles Jones Elementary School (200 Beaufont Hill Drive, Richmond, Va) at 9:00 am.

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The streamwalk originally scheduled for July 9,  has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 23.  See “Wanted: Reedy Creek Detectives” post below.

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Saturday, July  9 from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM

Join the Reedy Creek Coalition and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay as we  “streamwalk” a section of Reedy Creek above Forest Hill Park.

Sewage-contaminated Discharge along the Creek

Help us identify sources of pollution that degrade Reedy Creek as well as Forest Hill Park lake; learn how to assess the health of the Reedy Creek ecosystem; have some fun tromping around in your local stream.

What to Bring/Wear:  Bring some knee-high boots or hip waders if you have them (hip waders in some sizes will be available).  Wear long pants.  Bring water, sunscreen, and bug protection.  Water, snacks, and hand disinfectant will be provided.

Where to Meet:   We will meet along Dunston Avenue just to the east (downstream) of Roanoke Avenue.  We will then divide into teams and walk segments of Reedy Creek between Roanoke Avenue and 44th street.

Please let us know you are coming by emailing us at: reedycreekcoalition@gmail.com.

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