Streamline - Winter 2014 - (Page 19)

Nutrient Contamination and Source Water IN THE STATE of Virginia, there are more than 46,000 farms covering 33 percent of the state's land. Such a significant portion of farmland results in either large inputs of nutrient rich products for plant production or large outputs of nutrient rich manure from animal operations. When not properly applied and managed, this excess of nutrients can flow directly into the water supply. Not only is this a waste of a valuable resource, it also poses a significant health risk to the human population and other organisms that rely on that water. Nutrient runoff into water typically has the greatest impact on surface water but the karst topography of a large section of Virginia, including the Shenandoah Valley, leaves the groundwater vulnerable as well. SCOTT MCNALLY, SOURCE WATER PROTECTION SPECIALIST Fertilizers are applied in various forms from factory made inorganic products to raw manure. Nitrate is a primary component of many fertilizers and is a known groundwater contaminant in many parts of the country. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the maximum contaminant level of nitrate for drinking water supplies is 10 mg/L. On agricultural land the threat of groundwater contamination stems from excess fertilizers applied to crops and improperly stored animal wastes. The latter can be of great concern in states like Virginia that have a massive poultry and cattle industry, wherein, farmers often add much more fertilizer than they actually need for crop production. The excess can enter surface waters through runoff or leach into the groundwater, by way of rainwater. However, from a farmer's financial perspective, this makes sense because an insufficient amount of fertilizer can result in a failed crop. Therefore, it is safer to add extra fertilizer rather than risk a poor crop yield. Residential areas also produce large outputs of nutrients that have the potential to contaminate water supplies. A large patch of open lawn will not stay green on its own and requires an input of fertilizer to survive. Excess fertilizer on residential lawns has the potential to contaminate surface and ground water in the same manner as agricultural contaminants. Septic systems can also exacerbate this issue as well, particularly units that are not properly maintained. In more rural areas, the infamous "straight-pipe" is also a significant and entirely preventable factor and under no circumstance should untreated sewage be dumped into a body of water. Over the past few decades, the growing severity of the situation in the Chesapeake Bay has greatly increased awareness on the issue of chronic nutrient loading. Algal blooms resulting in massive dead zones have had a terrible impact on the once abundant aquatic life that thrived in the bay. This issue has become particularly important for Virginia because 56 percent of the state is within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and a vast majority of the state's coastline is a part of the bay. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons Virginia lawmakers passed a bill in 2013 banning the sale of phosphorus containing fertilizers. This will serve to greatly reduce the amount of nutrients entering the bay from residential sources. When establishing a water source, individuals should pay close attention to the placement of any new well. They should also thoroughly evaluate any existing well in regards to its depth and proximity to septic systems and other potential sources of nutrient contamination. In high concentrations, nitrate can cause methemoglobinemia, or the insufficient transportation of oxygen in the blood. This condition is usually characterized by blue skin and can be fatal, especially for infants. Algal blooms that result from nutrient loading can be toxic and add immense pressure on the systems that treat drinking water. Hiring a professional to create a nutrient management plan for one's land is a preventable A source water protection plan is an important step that can be done to identify potential sources of contamination and ensure a more efficient and effective response. measure that many people should do to ensure that fertilizers are applied in the appropriate areas and quantity. A source water protection plan is another important step that can be done to identify potential sources of contamination and ensure a more efficient and effective response, if and when a problem arises. 19

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Winter 2014

From the President: Three Years Later
From the Executive Director: Rattling About the Important Things
Water and Wastewater Systems
Regret: How to Live with What You Cannot Change
OSHA Compliance for Public Works
Nutrient Contamination and Source Water
NRWA Summaries
USDA Rural Development
Cleared for Takeoff!
Emergency Tank Repair Prevention and Preparation
Virginia Offenders Train for Wastewater Treatment Jobs
2014-2015 Membership Directory
Throwing My Loop: Revelators
Booster Club
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
VRWA Mailbag
VRWA Training Calendar
Welcome New Members
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Winter 2014