VA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ): Alex Barron, Jean Gregory, Carlos Matins, Alan Pollock, Jutta Schneider, CO; Lou Seivard, PRO; Roger Everton, Wick Harlan, TRO
Advisory Committee Members Present:
Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeepers: Jeff Turner
Dominion Virginia Power: Dr. Ken Roller for Jud White
E.I. DuPont Co: Dr. Annette Guiseppi-Elie
Friends of Dragon Run: Teta Kain
James Madison University (JMU): Dr. W. Dean Cocking
University of Mary Washington: Dr. Michael Bass
University of Virginia (UVA) - State Climatology Office: Dr. Jerry Stenger
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): Ken Hyer
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS): Dr. Susan Lingerfelser
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF): Gary Martel
Virginia Department of Health (VDH): Dr. Khizar Wasti
Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS): Dr. William Reay
Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA): Sheryl Raulston
Advisory Committee Members Unable to Attend:
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) - Water Quality Division: Mark Hale
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Jeff Bigler
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) - Center for Environmental Studies: Dr. Greg Garman
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ): Richard Browder, Gabriel Darkwah, Mark Richards, CO; Mark Alling, PRO
Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS): Dr. Mike Newman
University of Virginia (UVA) - State Climatology Office: Steve Gawtry
Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA): Charles Ross
Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeepers Program: Kevin Curling
Welcome and Introductions: Alan Pollock
Alan Pollock reminded the committee that DEQ Director Bob Burnley formed this advisory committee when agency fish tissue contaminant data collected in 2002 resulted in the VDH issuance in the fall of 2003 of fish consumption advisories for mercury in Dragon Run Swamp (Piankatank River), the Blackwater River, and the Great Dismal Swamp Canal and Lake Drummond. He did this because he saw the need to seek outside input from knowledgeable citizens on development of an agency action plan. At the first meeting of this committee on April 16, 2004, VDH, DEQ and the VA DEQ counterpart agency in North Carolina (NC DENR) provided briefings on the respective agency actions and sought suggestions from the committee on how to direct future efforts. The decision was made to schedule a follow-up advisory committee meeting once lab results were available for the 2003 samples and follow-up monitoring scheduled for 2004.
Therefore, the purposes of this meeting of the Virginia Mercury Advisory Committee are:
- DEQ overview of the 2003* and 2004** mercury data for fish tissue and sediment,
- Discussion of DEQ's ongoing work this calendar year and plans for 2006,
- USFWS risk assessment efforts, and
- Advisory committee feedback.
* In the fall of 2004, VDH issued fish consumption advisories for four additional water bodies in the York River watershed (Pamunkey River, Mattaponi River, Herring Creek, and Lake Gordonsville) and two lakes (Lake Trashmore and Lake Whitehurst) in the Norfolk area in response to elevated levels of mercury detected in some fish during DEQ's monitoring in the 2003 season.
** Earlier fish consumption advisories were adjusted slightly in 2005 based on 2004 data.
DEQ Fish Tissue and Sediment Monitoring in 2003-2004: Alex Barron
PowerPoint Presentation: Elevated Mercury Levels in Fish Collected from Undeveloped Ponds and Swamps in Eastern Virginia
Mercury contamination of fish is becoming an important issue in Virginia as well as many other states.
Until recently, Virginia's only known concerns with mercury contaminated fish had been caused by two instances of historic, industrial contamination in the North Fork Holston River and in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River. However, recently Virginia DEQ has discovered several additional water bodies where some species of fish show mercury levels elevated enough to cause the Virginia Department of Health to issue additional fish consumption advisories. A total of nine new mercury caused fish consumption advisories have been issued in 2003 and 2004. These include: the Blackwater River, the Great Dismal Swamp Canal and Lake Drummond, in southeastern Virginia, as well as the Dragon Run Swamp-Piankatank River, the Pamunkey River, the Mattaponi River and Herring Creek on the Middle Peninsula as well as some small lakes in eastern Virginia. There are no obvious industrial sources of mercury being discharged into these water bodies.
These water bodies are primarily in eastern Virginia, on the coastal plain and most of the water bodies are associated with swamps or wetlands. These type of environments are characterized by having low dissolved oxygen levels, low pH (acidic waters), and elevated levels of dissolved organic carbon. These environmental conditions are thought to favor the conversion of mercury into methylmercury, the toxic form of mercury that bioaccumulates in fish. DEQ is actively investigating this issue and is conducting additional monitoring of similar water bodies to discover the extent of the problem. Additional water bodies needing fish consumption advisories may be discovered as this monitoring continues. DEQ is considering all possible sources of mercury inputs to these affected water bodies, including possible air deposition.
During the past decade, similar instances of mercury contamination of fish have been identified in many areas of the country where there are little or no significant industrial sources directly discharging into the water body. This has been seen in different areas of the country, from the Florida everglades to the lakes, ponds and bogs in New England and the Great Lakes states and Canada. In many of these cases, where there are no local sources of mercury in the watershed, the investigating authorities suspect that the source of the mercury is airborne deposition of mercury released to the atmosphere from combustion of coal, or waste incineration as well as volcanic activity and forest fires. It is recognized that these air sources may be local, regional and world wide.
The increasing number of fish consumption advisories in Virginia due to mercury will require DEQ to devote additional efforts in investigating this complex issue. DEQ needs to develop a statewide strategy for investigating mercury contamination in a coordinated manner. The mercury strategy will have to address the scope of the problem, actions taken so far, source identification efforts, TMDL issues and potential remediation options.
Advisory Group Discussion: Suggestion to collect water samples for mercury analysis in addition to fish and sediment. Some questions regarding EPA, Virginia and North Carolina levels of mercury used to indicate impairment. In response to questions about air deposition monitoring stations, Alex said that there are no Virginia DEQ air deposition monitoring stations, but there is information available at http://nadp.sws.uiuc.edu/mdn/ for three National Mercury Air Deposition Network monitoring stations located in Virginia in the Shenandoah National Park, Culpeper, and a new station in Gloucester County. Dr. Reay made some comments about the benefits of the new station on Dragon Run. Suggestion that VA DEQ consider, if appropriate once there are sufficient data, a blanket advisory such as the east of I- 95 mercury fish eating advisory in North Carolina. In response to DEQ's request for suggestions for their 2006 plan, there were suggestions to consider natural deposition areas, the influence of soils, low pH waters, and selenium, and available atmospheric transport/deposition studies such as the NOAA modeling of the Chesapeake Bay system.
USFWS Work on Risk Assessment: Susan Lingerfelser
UFWS has collected with DEQ assistance whole fish for mercury analysis (using federal funds) to aid in their assessment of the potential risk to wildlife of mercury contaminated fish in the Refuge.
Results of DEQ Source Assessment in Dragon Run Watershed: Lou Seivard
PowerPoint Presentation: DEQ Piedmont Regional Office Mercury Source Assessment Dragon Swamp, 2004/2005 Water and Sediment Sampling
A summary of this study is available from DEQ. The working hypothesis was if there is a local source, levels of total mercury would not be evenly distributed throughout the watershed. The first year study did not identify any of the 13 locations as standing out as relatively higher than the rest of the watershed, i.e. no obvious hot spots. Water monitoring will continue for a second year with sampling of the entire watershed on the same day with total mercury (unfiltered) measurements only. Sediments will be resampled at a lower detection limit.
Advisory Group Discussion: Ken Hyer, Will Reay, Carlos Martins, Alex Barron and Annette Guiseppi-Elie provided some suggestions for statistical analysis, observations about filtered and unfiltered water samples, suitable detection limits for sediment analysis, and advice about storm water sampling.
DEQ Air Division Perspective: Carlos Martins
Handouts: DEQ Air Division Perspective
Carlos used the handouts as visual guides, discussing them in the sequence presented. Carlos said that DEQ has the option to develop a state Clean Air Mercury regulation by 2006 rather than use the EPA promulgated Clean Air Mercury Rule.
- EPA Clean Air Mercury Rule Basic Information
- VADEQ Clean Air Mercury Rule (Revision F05), Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA), Agency Background Document
- VADEQ Air Division September 15, 2005 Meeting Minutes Ad Hoc Advisory Group Concerning Clean Air Mercury Rule
- VA Toxics Release Inventory Report Executive Summary 2003 Facility Reports, March 2005
- VA DEQ Supporting Information - Regulatory Ad Hoc Advisory Group Concerning Clean Air Mercury Rule - September 7, 2005
- Annual VA Mercury Air Emissions 2000-2003
- Companies Reporting 2003 Mercury Emissions in Virginia
- Maps of Mercury Advisories (VADPH) and Mercury Emission Sources (VADEQ TRI over 10lbs/yr)
- Scientific Literature Pertinent to Mercury Deposition
- Advisory Group Discussion: There were some questions about EPA caps.
DEQ TMDL Mercury Experience: Jutta Schneider
PowerPoint Presentation: DEQ Hg TMDL Perspective
In his introduction to Jutta's presentation, Alan Pollock explained that the link to TMDLs is that waters are listed as impaired for mercury violate the water quality standards due to a fish consumption advisory. Jutta described mercury TMDL approaches in MN, MA, MD, and VA. There are currently two mercury advisory areas in Virginia requiring TMDLs by 2010 under the federal court Consent Decree governing Virginia, both are legacy mercury problems (North Fork Holston River and South River/South Fork Shenandoah River). There is an ongoing TMDL development project in the South River, with USGS working in collaboration with Dupont, the South River Science Team, and DEQ. A TMDL is needed within 12 years of the initial listing (2016 for 2004 listing of Dragon Run, Blackwater River and Feeder to Dismal Swamp, 2018 for new 2006 listings.)
Advisory Group Discussion: There was a question about water coordination with the air side of DEQ.
Plans for Follow-Up and Future Meetings
Alan Pollock sought general committee comments, including their thoughts on how DEQ should go about developing a mercury statewide strategy, using the existing agency PCB strategy as a starting point but recognizing the mercury strategy would be more complex because it involves air issues as well as water and waste sources. He concluded the meeting by saying that he thought the committee should meet on an annual basis and advised the committee members that a summary of the meeting and copies of the presentations and handouts would be posted on the DEQ Fish Tissue and Sediment Monitoring Program web page.
Advisory Group Discussion: The suggestion was made that the South River Science Team might be a good model as it had been beneficial to the TMDL process. The need for air and water division interaction was discussed and Alan Pollock advised Carlos Martins that he should not be surprised to see water staff at the Mercury Clean Air Rule hearing. It was suggested that the impact of low pH should be recognized. There was some discussion about the selection of sampling stations for the 2006 fish and sediments contaminant program, especially regarding existing monitoring on the Rappahannock River Basin and potential additional sites. There was the suggestion that DEQ and VDH review the EPA mercury limit and collaborate on a state number rather than separate agency screening numbers.