James Pinsky: Ice cream: The secret to clean water

James Pinsky

If you ever wanted to help save the world, or at least your world’s water, Wednesday might be a good day to start, and the North Warren Volunteer Fire Hall might be a good place to be – say 7 p.m.

I say Wednesday because that’s when the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, along with many of their friends, will present a draft plan to make Crooked, West and Stephens Runs and Willow Brook safe for recreation, and to carry it out they’re going to need your help.

“Community involvement in the development of this plan is critical since it will be implemented on a voluntary basis using incentives such as a best management practice cost-share program,” said Nesha McRae, the Department of Environmental Quality’s non-point source total maximum daily load coordinator for the Valley Regional Office. “Consequently, it’s critical that the plan includes implementation strategies and practices that local landowners are interested in implementing on their property. The goal of the water quality improvement plan is to provide the community with a road map to clean water in these streams.”

The reason there’s a plan in the first place is because Crooked, West and Stephens Runs and Willow Brook are all contaminated.

According to McRae, the streams do not meet DEQ’s water quality standard for bacteria, which is a risk-based standard designed to protect human health.

“By reducing the amount of E.coli in the streams, we are also reducing the risk of illness or infection when recreating in them,” McRae said. “While most strains of E.coli are harmless, they are an indicator that other pathogens may be present in the water, including hepatitis A, giardia, and cryptosporidium.”

While Wednesday is fast approaching, rest assured your local community won’t and didn’t wait until then to start the clean-up. According to McRae, 33 acres of riparian buffers have already been planted and more than 1,000 acres of pasture are now rotationally grazed to help mitigate the E.coli levels in the water. She said local farmers have installed more than seven miles of streamside livestock exclusion fencing in the watersheds through cost-share incentives, and nearly $500,000 has been invested in state best management practice cost-share programs to combat the water issues.

“Implementation of these sorts of practices needs to become more widespread in order to meet water quality improvement goals in the watersheds,” said McRae, who added that considerable work is needed from homeowners with failing septic systems.

So, if you want to be a part of saving our Virginia world, show up at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the North Warren Volunteer Fire Hall’s Celebration Hall. You won’t be alone as other like-minded save-the-world kind of folks from our community will be there to show you what they’ve already done, what they will do and how you can still help. And – if saving the world isn’t enough incentive for you, there’s going to be free ice cream. Seriously. Free. McRae said locally made ice cream from C&C Frozen Treats will be served at the meeting thanks to Warren County Farm Bureau and the Friends of the North Fork Shenandoah River.

Save the world? Free ice cream? Meet clean water super heroine Nesha McRae? Free ice cream? Where do I sign up?

Celebration Hall is located on the second floor at the North Warren Volunteer Fire Hall, 266 Rockland Court, Front Royal.

For more information about this meeting contact Nesha McRae directly: Nesha McRae, non-point source TMDL coordinator, Valley Regional Office, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, 4411 Early Road, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Phone: 540-574-7850. Email: nesha.mcrae@deq.virginia.gov. Website: www.deq.virginia.gov.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.