Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed

Rappahannock County Water Quality Advisory Committee

Reports & Meeting Minutes

Aug 06 | Apr 06 | Mar 06 | Feb 06 | Jan 06 | Nov 05 | Oct 05 | Jul 05 | Apr 05 | Feb 05

April 14, 2005

Members Present: Bev. Hunter, RappFLOW
Kenner Love, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Greg Wichelns, Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District
Tom Tepper, Rappahannock County Planning Commission
Medge Carter, Virginia Department of Health
Monira Rifaat, Rappahannock County Farmland Protection Committee
Reid Folsom, Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection
Josh Makela, Rappahannock County High School

Members Absent: S. Bryant Lee, Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors

Mr. Folsom called the meeting to order at 5:01 and introductions were made between those members who did not already know each other.

The WQAC turned to a discussion of the proposed Tier III Waters designation for a number of streams and rivers, all of which are in either the Shenandoah National Park or the George Washington National Forest, and including Piney River and the North Fork of the Thornton Rivers, both in Rappahannock County. Tier III designation denotes exceptional waters, that exist in a pristine state.

Designation would forbid the addition of any pollutant discharge into the waterway as well as the expansion of any existing discharge. It was noted that there had been a public hearing on March 7 at 2:00 PM at the Luray Fire Department and that the comment period on the proposed designation expired on April 1. Mr. McCarthy reported that , via a report he had received of the hearing, the hearing included a number of concerns expressed concerning the designation, most of which centered on notions that the designation would lead to further restrictions. Bev Hunter had attended the hearing, and reported that the USEPA had a representative there who explained at length that no additional restrictions were imposed on land outside of the Park and National Forests. Nevertheless a petition with several hundred names was presented by Page County farmers opposing the designation. Much concern was expressed by that group about this designation leading to other restrictions on farming and current farming practices.

A discussion followed in the WQAC as to the merits of either extending the Tier III designation onto stretches of the rivers outside of the Park boundary in Rappahannock or, alternately, considering seeking “Scenic Rover” designation, as had been achieved for the Rappahannock. Questions were asked as to the effect on property values and possible landowner opposition.
It was determined to wait on the report of the comment period that was expected within 60 days.

The Chair called for discussion of the Town of Washington’s request for a discharge into the Rush River. Mr. McCarthy reported that while the preliminary application for the proposed construction of a treatment plant on the north end of Town had been submitted, the Town was exploring options as to using the Avon Hall property for a treatment alternative. After questioning from the members, he conceded that the subsurface disposal option that had originally been contemplated on the Avon hall property, and subsequently been ruled impractical by the Health Department, was not being revived, but that other sewage disposal means were being investigated. Much discussion followed as to the very political nature of the controversy in the Town over its sewage disposal options and the impact thereof on land use planning. The two issues had come to very strongly inter-linked.

Opening the floor for other topics, the Chair recognized Bev Hunter who reported with great enthusiasm of a five day training institute she had participated in (along with PEC’s Sarah Gannon and Jill Keihn, a RAPPFlow participant) in Shepherdstown WV. The program, the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute, had both energized her and surprised her. The latter in that the scale and extent of natural resources loss that was occurring from thoughtless development practices was simply amazing, the former because there were so many people who were actively engaged in the effort to preserve resources and pre-empt those poor practices. She noted that the practices which most compromised water and other resources’ quality were never “repaired” after the fact, although that was the most commn method (i.e., “engineer a solution”).

The Chair asked Medge Carter to describe the difficulties in “rehabbing” septic systems. Ms. Carter reported that the reasons for a drainfields’ problems dictated how or if they could be repaired. She noted that the “T” junction in septic tanks of some age often rusted away or was otherwise disturbed, allowing solids to get into the drain lines. Once this occurs, the capacity of the drain lines to ever process the liquid that they are intended to receive is pretty well irretrievable compromised. She noted however that often, distribution boxes are forced out of level , resulting in too much wastewater in one or more lines, and none in others, and that this is easily remedied. Regrettably, the first type of problem is more common.

A discussion followed regarding other jurisdictions’ practices with drainfields, it being noted that some require backup fields with alternating flows from year to year, etc. Ms. Carter emphasized the need to pump out solids on a regular basis. Three to five years being the normally recommended interval,, she added that could be adjusted up or down based on frequency and scale of use.
Greg Wichelns noted that there had, earlier that day, been a meeting with the Piedmont Board of Realtors at which his agency and others had presented information on land conservation topics. He reported that turnout had been very good, about 35 persons, and that they had been very actively engaged in the discussion.
The Chair reminded everyone to contact Mr. McCarthy at elast one week prior to the next meeting with agenda items for discussion. Bev Hunter noted that she would be seeking feedback on some RAPPFlow material.

After a brief further discussion, including setting the next meeting date for June 9th, 2005, and agreement that the session had been informative, the meeting adjourned at 6:04 PM

Respectfully Submitted,

John W. McCarthy, Secretary