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State Of The James Report Shows Negative Impacts Of Stormwater Pollution

State Of The James Report Shows Negative Impacts Of Stormwater Pollution
The James River has seen a steady trend towards overall health until this year (James River Association).

*VPM intern Patrick Larsen reported this story.

The James River’s overall health and restoration score is unchanged since the last State of the James Report was released two years ago.

The report, which is published by the nonprofit advocacy group James River Association, takes into account a variety of indicators that reflect the river’s health and efforts to prevent further damage to it.

One metric that has seen little improvement since the James River Association started releasing reports in 2007 is stormwater management.

Program director Shawn Ralston says that stormwater pollution can put extreme stress on even a healthy river by greatly increasing the amount of pollution flowing into it. She and other researchers say that progress stalled due to record-breaking rains last year.

Rainfall impacts some indicators more than others, like bacteria growth. High bacteria levels can make recreational activities like swimming dangerous.

“It's really just after heavy rain events that the standards are not met,” Ralston said.

You can see the problem following heavy storms when sediment pollution makes the river brown and murky.

The report blames low funding and rapid development for stormwater runoff. It’s the only source of pollution in the James that isn’t seeing regular improvements.

The James River Association is advocating the General Assembly for $80 million of funding per year to address the problem.

Despite difficulties over the last two years, the James River is a finalist for the Thiess Riverprize, an international award that recognizes exceptional health and restoration programs.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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