James Pinsky: The scars of mercury

James Pinsky

Between 1929 and 1950, the former E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) facility in Waynesboro released mercury into the water.

The mercury, a known toxin that causes adverse effects on fish and wildlife, contaminated more than 100 miles of river and associated floodplain in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River watershed, and continues to affect fish and wildlife along the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River watershed.

Sound bad? It was, and it is. It’s quite the ecological mess, which will take years to clean up. It’s also going to be expensive. I know what you’re probably thinking: someone should pay, and that someone is DuPont. Here’s some good news, the federal court system agrees, to the tune of more than $42 million.

According to information from the Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources for Virginia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Secretary of Natural Resources (the trustees) worked cooperatively with DuPont to assess potential impacts, and the trustees proposed a settlement that includes over $42 million for restoration projects. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia approved the settlement on July 28.

Within that $42 million settlement is money specifically designated for water quality and fish habitat improvement projects including but not limited to protecting/improving riparian buffers, stabilizing eroding banks, spring and stream buffers protection, and stormwater management pond enhancements. Aimed at agricultural best management practices and urban storm water management, all of these projects should help improve water quality, reduce nutrient and sediment input and provide habitat for wildlife.

So who can do these projects? State and federal agencies, localities, public bodies, and registered (tax-exempt) nonprofit organizations are eligible and collaboration among all of these folks is certainly allowed if not encouraged. Yes, that means us here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. In fact, three soil and water conservation districts are eligible to participate, adding the Headwaters and the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation Districts as prime partners.

For more information about this settlement and eligible project ideas, feel free to contact Nick Livesay, a conservation specialist here at our Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District office at 540-465-2424 ext. 102 or by email at nick.livesay@lfswcd.org. Any eligible grant submissions must be completed by Oct 9.

Additional information about the DuPont settlement can also be found on the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources website http://naturalresources.virginia.gov/initiatives/dupont-settlement-grants

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. Visit us at www.lfswcd.org or follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/lfswcd.