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Public Works

Posted on: August 13, 2019

Pet waste and landscaping practices are just a few reasons local waterways can be contaminated

Grandview Nature Preserve

Aug. 13, 2019 - Pet waste and certain landscaping practices are just a few of the reasons local waterways can be contaminated and swimming advisories are issued for local beaches. But you can do your part to help things stay clean. 

The Chesapeake Bay and other waterways in Virginia are tested regularly by city and state agencies to detect naturally occurring bacterial organisms and to monitor water quality.  Along with the periodic surveillance conducted by city and local volunteers, the Virginia Department of Health conducts weekly screenings at Buckroe Beach and the public beaches at Fort Monroe. State officials specifically test for enterococci, a group of bacteria used to indicate and gauge fecal contamination in salt and brackish recreational waterways. The testing is designed to determine whether coliform bacteria levels exceed EPA thresholds. If they do, warnings are issued advising caution during recreational activities such as swimming, wading, and kayaking. Local investigators are also prompted to search for possible contamination sources, which can be difficult to isolate.

Sanitary sewer breaches are the easiest contaminant sources to find, but fecal contamination can be caused by a number of sources. Pet waste can be a major contaminant in stormwater runoff, which is why it is so important for residents to clean up behind their dogs and other domestic animals. Other problems can arise from the excessive or incorrect use of manure fertilizers and organic matter entering the storm system. Non- migratory geese, seagulls, or pigeons congregating in an area can exacerbate an already building bacteria problem. That's why the city discourages feeding birds along the beach or around ponds, lakes and other areas which eventually drain to the bay. You can help by cleaning up after your pets, and never discarding pet waste in or around a stormwater drain. Remember, the city's stormwater system empties directly to the Chesapeake Bay, which includes Buckroe Beach and Mill Creek.

When working outside in the yard, you can also protect the bay by reducing the use of certain fertilizers, using mulching blades on lawnmowers and blowing loose grass and leaf clipping back into your yard. These are just some of the practices that can reduce extreme nutrient issues in the Bay, and eliminate mosquitoes related to the West Nile virus, which thrives in high-nutrient, organic-rich stormwater runoff.

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