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Report documents failures of Virginia’s cleanup plans for the Shenandoah River

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A new report finds that Virginia’s efforts to restore the health of the scenic Shenandoah River are failing because of toothless and absent cleanup plans, a lack of regulations on the livestock industry, and inadequate monitoring by the state.

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), “Water Quality in the Shenandoah Valley: Virginia’s Cleanup Plans Fail to Solve Bacteria Problem,” urges Virginia to take strong steps to protect people swimming in waterways contaminated with fecal bacteria, including by issuing health advisories, posting warning signs, and by cracking down on manure runoff from livestock operations.

The study found that almost 70 percent of the river and stream miles in the Shenandoah Valley that have been assessed by the state (1,014 of 1,461 miles) had so much fecal bacteria in them that they were considered to be “impaired” for recreational uses in 2020 (using a term in the federal Clean Water Act for waterways so polluted they require a cleanup plan.)

However, those numbers could soon fall – not because the waters are any cleaner, but because Virginia recently revised its water quality standards to tolerate higher concentrations of fecal bacteria, according to EIP’s report.


Almost half of the impaired waters in the Shenandoah Valley lack either the cleanup plans or implementation plans required by federal and state law. And many of the plans that have been in place for years have failed because they lack any enforcement or funding mechanisms and because monitoring has been inadequate.

“The Shenandoah is such a beautiful and historic place – and such a treasured spot for fishing, tubing, and recreation — Virginia really needs to get more serious about protecting it,” said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA. “Most of all, Virginia needs to regulate the growing livestock industry to stop the chronic over application of fertilizer to farm fields, and mandate livestock fencing along streams.”

Until Virginia’s waters are cleaned up, Schaeffer said, the Commonwealth should raise “no swimming” advisory signs in parts of the Shenandoah that are often used for swimming and tubing but that have unsafe levels of fecal bacteria.

Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, said: “Virginia has failed to implement plans already on the books that would actually result in improved water quality in the Shenandoah Valley. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has also assessed a very low percentage of waters, leaving residents guessing whether it is safe to swim and recreate in the rivers and streams.”
The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) report is based on an examination of state records and water quality monitoring data, and includes the following findings:

• Under federal and state clean water laws, impaired waterways are supposed to have cleanup plans and implementation plans. But 47 percent of the waterways impaired by bacteria in the Shenandoah Valley lack either cleanup or implementation plans.

• The cleanup plans (also called Total Maximum Daily Loads or TMDLs) that do exist lack enforcement and funding mechanisms. For example, EIP examined 11 watershed cleanup implementation plans in the Shenandoah Valley and found that the state was not following the water quality monitoring requirements in 10 of them.

• The cleanup deadlines for four of the implementation plans in the Valley have passed, but the waterways in three of these four remain impaired by fecal bacteria.

• Virginia’s monitoring of water quality is inadequate. Only 21 percent of the river and stream miles in the Shenandoah Valley, and 22 percent statewide, have been assessed by the state to determine if they are impaired with pollutants.

• The number of water monitoring sites in the Shenandoah Valley declined from an average of 70 per year from 2015 to 2018, to 30 per year in 2019 and 2020, with many of the excluded sites having the highest levels of bacteria.

• Agricultural pollution, primarily from manure runoff from fields and livestock yards, was a source of contamination for 71 percent (or 723) of the impaired miles of rivers and streams that were assessed in 2020.

EIP’s report also examines how the regulatory landscape is shifting in Virginia. Water quality standards have changed in the Commonwealth, and the changes make it harder for waterways to be designated as impaired in the future – meaning fewer could be aided by cleanup plans.

On October 21, 2019, Virginia changed its standards for the amount of bacteria that is acceptable for water-contact recreation, such as the swimming, tubing, and kayaking that are popular in the summer in the Shenandoah Valley. The state adopted new regulations that tolerate higher concentrations of fecal bacteria (410 units of E. coli bacteria per 100 ml water, instead of 235 under the old standards.)

Virginia in 2019 also eliminated its fecal bacteria public health warning advisory threshold for swimming in freshwater areas – called the “beach action value.” The Virginia Department of Health continues to use a health warning and monitoring system for saltwater beaches in the state but has never issued warnings or posted signs to protect people in freshwater areas like those along the Shenandoah River.

Mark Frondorf, the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, said: “Virginia should not implement a two-tiered system that protects saltwater beach goers at the expense of folks living, working, and recreating in the Shenandoah watershed. It’s a matter of basic fairness.”

The Environmental Integrity Project’s report makes the following recommendations:

• The Virginia General Assembly and VDEQ need to invest enough in staffing and resources to create cleanup and implementation plans for the nearly half of impaired waterway miles in the Shenandoah Valley that lack one or the other of them today.

• The state should take action to implement the cleanup plans it creates so that TMDLs are more meaningful. The most important way Virginia could better implement its TMDLs would be to impose regulations that reduce the chronic over-application of manure to farm fields, especially those adjacent to waterways. The Commonwealth should also issue rules to require all farmers to fence their cattle out of streams and rivers.

• The state should tighten up its recently revised water quality standards for bacteria by creating a swimming beach warning standard for freshwater areas and by issuing health advisories on websites and social media and by raising “no swimming” signs to warn people in these areas contaminated by fecal pathogens, including in the Shenandoah Valley. The warning signs could include a website or hotline that people could use to get the most recent bacteria monitoring information.

• Virginia should significantly expand its water quality monitoring program statewide, especially in freshwater areas, so that the nearly 80 percent of waterway miles that lack enough data can be evaluated for impairment decisions and cleanup plans.

For a copy of the report, click here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 19-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington, D.C., that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health.

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National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff

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This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”

Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration:  Everlasting Legacy.

The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.


Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.

Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Glenn Youngkin

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch

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Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.

Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.

Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?


Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.

If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!

A new record!

Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!

If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Local grandma steps out of shower, holds intruder at gunpoint until police arrive

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A Warren County family had an exciting Monday morning after the family’s matriarch thwarted an intruder who may have intended to steal a family vehicle.

Tricia Montoney told Royal Examiner Monday evening that an eagle-eyed neighbor noticed a man in the family’s driveway, around 7 a.m. standing beside a Ford F-150 pickup truck belonging to Tricia’s daughter, Rachel Montoney.

Rachel said in a phone interview that “once our neighbor told me about the man attempting to enter my vehicle, I ran to get my mom.”

Tricia was in the shower but quickly put on a robe and grabbed the Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun she keeps for personal protection. She then went outside to confront the intruder. By then, she said, the man was sitting inside the pickup with the door closed.


Interrupted during her morning shower, Warren County resident Tricia Montoney was able to confront an intruder and hold him at gunpoint until deputies could place him under arrest. Photos by Rachel Montoney.

Rachel says her mom yelled to the intruder, “What are you doing? Get out of the truck and on your knees!” The man, later identified by arresting officers as Larry Huyser, exited the truck and complied with Tricia’s instructions while a neighbor called 9-1-1.

Huyser, who was dressed in a fluorescent green sweatshirt, jeans, and a black hat, said that he had gotten into the unlocked truck “because I was cold.”

Warren County deputies who arrived on the scene found Tricia holding Huyser at gunpoint. He was taken into custody without incident.

Huyser was booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail (RSW) and charged with vandalism, damaging property, tampering and entering a vehicle, and breaking and entering an auto.

Thanks to Tricia Mohoney’s quick action, Warren County deputies were able to take an intruder into custody Monday morning. Larry Huyser, below, was booked into the RSW Regional Jail.

LARRY HUYSER

He is being held without bond. Online court records show that Huyser has been arrested before for similar offenses.

Both Tricia and Rachel expressed their gratitude for their neighbor and his assistance in contacting the police and for staying with Tricia as she held the intruder at gunpoint.

The Montoneys also appreciated the deputies, who arrived quickly and transported the intruder to RSW.

Asked if she would now lock her truck at night, Rachel said, “Absolutely!”

Both ladies expressed their gratitude that no one was injured and said they were especially grateful for their close friendship with their neighbors. “We take care of each other out here,” Tricia said.

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Congressman Ben Cline holds Town Hall meeting in Warren County

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Residents of Warren County were invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) on December 5, 2022. This town hall event was an opportunity for residents of Warren County to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.

Watch the Town Hall meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.

 

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Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies help rescue horse after fall into pool

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On December 2, 2022, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s responded to a residence on Green Springs Rd. in Frederick County. This was regarding an 1800-pound draft horse that fell into a swimming pool. Once on the scene Deputies determined that the horse had knocked over the top rail of the fence around the pool, jumped the fence and walked out onto the nylon pool cover causing the horse to fall into the water. However, its head and part of the body remained above water.

The Draft Horse was in the 9-foot end of the pool. Deputies Cram, ACO Deputy Tasker and Sgt. Hawse started cutting the pool cover away from the horse. Once it was clear of the cover and haltered, the horse was pulled to the shallow end of the pool where it was able to stand and catch its breath. Deputies were able to guide the horse up the stairs to the pool deck and into the yard.

The Veterinarian who handles the horse was called and advised to dry the horse as good as possible, feed it hay and keep it moving. That information was passed on to the owner’s children that arrived on scene. At the time of this email the horse was doing fine.

“You just never know what type of calls we respond to every day. This is one for the books. We are happy that it was witnessed, and we could respond to assist. Deputies were ready to go in the water if needed to make sure the horse stayed above water,” Sheriff Lenny Millholland observed of the incident.


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Local doctors take time out to again treat third world country residents of Honduras

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For the past 14 years, local Dr. Thomas (call me “Tommy”) Ball has ducked out of Front Royal Family Practice to spend up to two weeks leading a medical team to serve the people of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Ball – okay, we’ll call him Tommy from here on – has always considered serving the under-served a core mission of his medical practice.  For the past 20 years Valley Health has recognized and supported that mission as part of his faculty position at the Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency.  “Valley Health recognizes that young doctors want to understand Global Health and want to contribute internationally.  They allow me to devote time as a teacher to global health issues and they support our work overseas,” he told us.

Dr. Ball examining a patient in Honduras clinic. – Courtesy Photos Dr. Ball/SAGE

Medical faculty from around Virginia have formed a nonprofit organization, SAGE (Students And Global Engagement), focused on introducing trainees to a small community in rural Honduras.  As Tommy describes it, “We attempt to foster better health among the Hondurans and to expose Americans to the needs people face in a third world setting.  It is a two-way street in which both parties benefit.”


SAGE helped build a small mountainside clinic in the village of Pinares, Honduras.  They send medical teams for one to two-week stretches three times a year at four-month intervals.  The area they serve is approximately the size of Warren County, with similar mountainous terrain.  Average take-home pay for the mostly agricultural workers around Pinares is about $3-dollars a day (yes, a day, emphasized Ball).

Medication, some donated by Valley Health, helps patients cope with a variety of diseases including familiar problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, as well as problems uncommon here such as parasites caused by contaminated water.  SAGE tries to go beyond just medication and address the underlying social factors that foster illness.  In recent years they have donated monthly food packages to families with young children and filters to improve the safety of drinking water.

This fall the team included Dr. Paulius Mui and Dr. Sean Sutphen from the residency training program and seasoned local physician Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, as well as support personnel in pharmacy, emergency transport, and anthropology.

Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, left, leads a team visiting a handicapped young woman in her mountainside home near Pinares, Honduras.

Tommy has developed close ties and friendships in the community SAGE serves.  He notes that he is older than most volunteers, but hopes he still has a few more years left of visiting and doing his best to improve health conditions in Pinares. “We have the personnel who want to help, but we are always struggling financially,” Tommy said, hoping that local service clubs and other non-profits might see their way to help support SAGE.

If you, the reader, are interested and require additional information, email Tommy at Front Royal Family Practice (taball@valleyhealthlink.com) or visit the SAGE website (sage-community.com). And yes, you may call him Tommy!

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Upcoming Events

Dec
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 7 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Dec
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10:00 am 10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 10 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area Journey back in time and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a Civil War Encampment during the holidays. Interact with the 10th VA Infantry, also known as the Valley Guards,[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 14 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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1:00 pm The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Dec 17 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Italia Performing Arts is pleased to announce its own student production of the seasonal ballet The Nutcracker, to be presented in Front Royal, VA, on Saturday December 17th 2022. Tickets: $35 and $25 Under 16:[...]
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21
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 21 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 28 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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5:30 am First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
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First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. While the American tradition of celebrating the New Year occurs at midnight on New Year’s Eve, other cultures celebrate by enjoying the sunrise on New Year’s Day. As part of the continuing American[...]