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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

Pigg River watershed clean-up plan detailed

Monday, February 23, 2009

By MORRIS STEPHENSON - Staff Writer

Officials working on the Pigg River watershed clean-up project hope to see the river and streams removed from the state's "dirty waters" list within five years.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and partnering Virginia Tech representatives unveiled a plan for the clean-up Thursday night in the final public meeting on the issue, held at the Franklin Center in Rocky Mount.

During the two-hour session attended by about 20 people, Mary Dail of the state DEQ and Karen Kline of Virginia Tech were the principal speakers.

The plan concentrates on high levels of dangerous E. coli bacteria entering the streams from the agricultural sector. Pollutants from the residential section also will be receiving attention.

The goal is to reduce the dangerous bacteria to approximately 10 percent by the end of the first five years. Zero percent is desired at the end of 15 years, according to the plan's projections.

The speakers said that pets are included in the clean-up, but there is nothing anyone can do about the wildlife that is adding to the problem, especially the increasing deer population.

Dail presented a Power Point presentation that included a review of the work that started in 2005 to clean up the Pigg River and its tributaries in Franklin County and Old Womans Creek in Pittsylvania County.

In addition to Pigg River, other streams included in the watershed are Snow Creek, Big Chestnut Creek, Story Creek, along with Tomahawk Creek and Harpen Creek.

All of creeks listed have numerous smaller streams running into them.

All water within the watershed flows into Leesville Lake.

Kline noted that "dirty water" ending up in Leesville Lake also can also show up in Smith Mountain Lake. On occasion, Appalachian Power Company pulls water from Leesville Lake and pumps it back into Smith Mountain Lake.

The plan included no surprises to those in attendance.

Farmers who raise beef or dairy cattle within the watershed will be able to use cost-share best management practices that are available to make the plan work.

Agricultural projects include fencing and cross-fencing to keep cattle out of the streams as well as providing fresh water supplies located away from the streams. There are other cost-share projects available to the farmers.

An estimated price tag of $28,766,709 covering a 15-year period has been set to complete the work that needs to be done on the agricultural side of the clean-up.

David Cundiff of Union Hall, who raises beef cattle, spoke of the benefits of installing cost-share programs on his farm.

He said that since installing fencing to keep cattle out of the Pigg River and creeks that run through his farm he has not lost a single calf or cow at birth. He noted that in the past, he lost several calves who drown after birth because the cow was at the water.

Cundiff told the gathering he had started installing best practice management projects in 2003. He is nearing the completion stage of the last practice available under the cost-share plan.

It is estimated there are approximately 40 residents living within the watershed who have no septic systems. They are using "straight (sewer) pipes" leading from the house and dumping directly into a creek or river.

Other residential pollution comes from residences' failing septic systems or ones that need pumping or repaired.

Solutions include replacing all straight pipes with either septic systems or alternate waste treatment systems. Failing systems need to be repaired or replaced, Kline noted.

A total of $7,340,050 is being earmarked for resolving the septic system problem for some 1,660 households. The cost also includes salaries for 10 years for two full-time staffers.

It was noted there are six available funding services available to assist with cost-share opportunities.

Dail said that Franklin County has a "one-stop shop building" in Rocky Mount were those interested can go for information on cost-share programs.

The Agriculture Soil and Conservation Service (ASCS) building on State Street near the North Main Street intersection also houses the Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District offices.

Dail said the clean-up plan will be open for a 30-day comment period that ends March 23. Information about the watershed clean-up plan also will be publicized with the use of posters, brochures, newspaper, radio and television coverage.

"This plan belongs to you folks in the Pigg River watershed," Dail said.

 
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