Impaired Streams of Hanover County

There has been concern in Hanover County about the streams identified as impaired and the implications these impairments have on the ability of citizens to use the waters for recreation and religious uses.

Portions of the following streams and rivers in Hanover County are impaired:

  • South Anna River
  • Stagg Creek
  • Newfound River
  • Mechumps Creek and tributaries
  • Matadequin Creek and tributaries
  • Parsleys Creek
  • Sandy Valley Creek
  • Totopotomoy
  • Chickahominy River
  • Bloody Run
  • Beaverdam Creek
  • Boatswain Creek

Portions of Taylors Creek and the South Anna River were listed as impaired in 2004 but are no longer considered impaired.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) monitor waters throughout Virginia to determine whether the waters meet the designated uses for surface waters: aquatic life, fish and shellfish consumption, swimming, public water supply, and wildlife.

In July 2006, DEQ identified about 8,980 miles of streams and rivers that do not meet at least one of the designated uses. The majority of impairments in rivers are for high levels of bacteria with smaller numbers of impairments for dissolved oxygen, pH, impaired aquatic communities and other causes.

Like the rest of Virginia, the majority (although not all) of impairments in Hanover County result from high levels of bacteria. Virginia’s numeric bacteria standard uses two types of bacteria, E. coli and enterococci, as indicators of potentially high level microorganisms that can cause illness if ingested by humans or come into contact with skin. The numeric standard for bacteria is designed to identify waters that have an increased risk of resulting in illness.

The streams that are considered impaired had levels of bacteria higher than a limit in 10% or more of the samples taken over a five-year period. Generally, the risk for illness increases with the amount of indicator bacteria in the water. While common sense should be taken when using these waters for recreation, the impairment does not necessarily indicate that the streams pose a serious risk to human health under all conditions.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires Virginia to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study for most streams identified as impaired. A TMDL study identifies the sources of pollution entering the stream and determines how much those sources need to be reduced to meet the water quality standard. Basically, the TMDL sets the goal for how much existing levels of bacteria need to be reduced for the stream to meet water quality standards and is a tool for targeting those efforts.

In Hanover County, TMDL studies are complete for bacteria impairments on portions of the South Anna River, Taylors Creek, Newfound River, Totopotomoy Creek, Matadequin Creek and Mechumps Creek. Sources of bacteria identified in these studies include failing septic systems, straight pipes (direct discharges of household waste to streams), livestock depositing manure in streams, runoff from pasture, pets, wildlife and others.

A TMDL is also complete for an aquatic life impairment on an unnamed tributary to the Chickahominy River. The TMDL identifies phosphorus as the pollutant (predominantly from an industrial discharge) of concern for this stream. Virginia will complete TMDL studies for the remaining streams currently on the impaired waters list between now and 2018. Following the completion of the TMDL study, Virginia is required to put together an implementation plan outlining the specific actions required to reduce the pollution sources. To date, implementation plans have not been completed for any of the impaired waters in Hanover County.

Useful Links:
VDH Safely Enjoying Virginia’s Natural Waters

DEQ’s Water Quality Assessment and Impaired Waters

Water quality data for specific streams from DEQ’s sampling

DEQ’s TMDL website

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