Category Archives: Environmental Issues

City awards Schenks’s Branch contract

The city of Charlottesville will hire a North Carolina based company to restore the streambank of a waterway that runs through McIntire Park. KBS Earthworks won the contract through a competitive bidding process. 

“The Schenks’ Branch Tributary Project consists of a construction of a priority II and priority III stream restoration to stabilize 818 linear feet of existing impaired stream,” reads the project description in the construction documents that KBS Earthworks will implement. 

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City Council holds first reading on plastic bag tax

Charlottesville City Council has taken a first step on implementing a five cent tax on most plastic bags at retail stores. A first reading was held on Monday but the public hearing will be held on August 1. 

“It’s still a work in process at this point and we’re not ready for a final version of it,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

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Planning for heat for near-term, long-term

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is working on an update of the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is intended to help coordinate public response to natural disasters. There’s a section on extreme heat that may be useful to know at a time when heat records are being surpassed across Europe. 

“Extreme heat can be defined as temperatures that hover 10°F or more above the average high temperature for the region, last for prolonged periods of time, and are often accompanied by high humidity,” reads page H-25 of the plan. “Under normal conditions, the human body’s internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed, and the body must work much harder to maintain a normal temperature.”

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Albemarle County Service Authority officials: No PFAS in municipal drinking water

On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued non-binding health advisories on the presence of certain chemicals that do not break down. Yesterday, the environmental compliance specialist for the Albemarle County Service Authority told that entity’s Board of Directors that the municipal water supply is set up to filter out per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. 

But first, Tim Brown explained there are thousands of different chemical combinations that were created to make products that are water-resistant, heat-resistant, and grease-resistant. 

“Every chemical is distinct by the fact that the element fluorine is a component of the chemical, and the carbon-fluorine chemical bond is a very very strong one,” Brown said. “What does that mean? It means this chemicals do not break down in the environment.”

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VDACS to expand Spotted Lanternfly quarantine to Charlottesville area

The state entity that oversees management of invasive species will expand a quarantine on the movement of certain products to help slow the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly. The Virginia Department of Consumer and Agricultural Services has sent a letter to localities including Albemarle and Charlottesville notifying them of the new rules. 

“The Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine requires a permit to ensure that businesses are taking steps to guarantee regulated articles are free from spotted lanternfly,” reads a June 15 letter from David Gianino, the program manager for the Office of Plant Industry Services. “To obtain a spotted lanternfly permit, completion of an online training course is required and businesses must then apply for the permit with VDACS.”

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Environmental Protection Agency sounds warning about PFAS in drinking water

The United States Environmental Protection Agency today has issued four advisories on the potential for “forever chemicals” in water supplies. The term PFAS covers per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances which are used in the manufacture of many products people use every day such as non-stick cookware, food packaging, electronics, and more. These substances do not break down and can accumulate in the human body and blood over many years and have been linked to cancer and diseases that affect the immune system. 

The four advisories are for specific substances.

“The updated advisory levels [for PFOA and PFOS], which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below EPA’s ability to detect at this time,” reads a press release announcing the steps. “The lower the level of PFOA and PFOS, the lower the risk to public health.”

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Harmful algae bloom at Chris Greene Lake

An algae bloom at Chris Greene Lake Park has caused Albemarle County to post an advisory closing the waterway to people and their dogs. According to a release, there have been no reported health problems but routine tests showed the presence of harmful algae. 

“People and pets are prohibited from contact with the water until further notice,” reads the release. “Mint Springs and Walnut Creek Lakes are not affected.” 

Other features of the Chris Greene Lake Park are still open such as the dog park and walking trails. The lake experienced an algae bloom in June of 2018 following heavy rains. Albemarle hired the firm SOLItude Lake Management to study the chemistry of the lake and they concluded the source of the algae from three years was likely the result of an accumulation of organic material on the bottom of the lake. 

“When levels of oxygen in the water drop during the heat of the summer, that large accumulation of lake muck releases a significant amount of phosphorus (i.e., plant food) into the water – ripe conditions for algae blooms,” reads an April report from the Facilities and Environmental Services office

The lake remains closed to dogs and people through at least Monday, when a new test will be conducted. 

“We need two tests with levels below the threshold in order to resume normal operations,”  said Emily Kilroy, Albemarle’s Director of Communications and Public Engagement. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the October 9, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.