Legislative And Regulatory History

Concern over the severely degraded conditions in the James River prompted the General Assembly to establish the State Water Control Board (SWCB) in 1946. The Board used its authority to put pressure on the city of Richmond to expand its treatment facilities and on industries to cease their discharges into the river (Richmond News Leader, 1963). Although the city responded favorably, and hopes were raised that the river could be fishable again within 10 years, a brief inspection of the river in 1963 revealed that the expectations of the Game and Inland Fisheries Commission had been overoptimistic. The river was as dead as it had been in 1947.

The most significant impetus for change came with the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972. This legislation forced states and localities to clean up municipal discharges and provided federal and state money with which to do it. Richmond upgraded its sewage treatment plant in 1974 to remove as much as 80 percent of the suspended solids (secondary treatment) (Epes, 1992). Later upgrades included a 500-million-gallon storm overflow basin in 1983, a $73 million filtering system in 1990, and an agreement in 1992 to spend $82 million for more improvements scheduled for completion in 1998 (Epes, 1992).

Water supply and wastewater treatment facilities have been developing at a rate commensurate with growth in the James River basin over the past few decades. As a result, the James River, including the Appomattox River, has received increased quantities of treated effluent from both municipal and industrial sources.

The Virginia SWCB realized the necessity of planning for waste treatment requirements many years ago. Between 1960 and 1962, several water quality studies were conducted to document the water quality conditions in the James River. These studies were among the earliest to quantitatively evaluate the natural assimilation capacity of the James River in the Hopewell and Richmond areas and to estimate the effect on stream quality of local industrial waste discharges.

Recognizing that proper planning must be implemented on a regional basis to protect the river system from impairment of its numerous desirable uses, SWCB entered into an agreement with the USEPA in 1971, under section 3(c) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1965, to study the James River. A principal outcome of this effort, completed in 1974, was the development of a James River ecosystem model by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). The SWCB used this model for wasteload allocations in the James River. Following the 3(c) study, the Richmond-Crater 208 study was funded, and a second detailed water quality management model, the James Estuary Model (JEM), was developed for the upper James River estuary. This model was found to be inconsistent with the VIMS model, and a review of both models was conducted by Hydroscience, Inc. The VIMS model was modified, and the revised James River model (JMSRV) was recalibrated for use in updating wasteload allocations (Hydroscience, 1980). The SWCB staff used the latter model to develop wasteload allocations, that is, the Upper James River Wasteload Allocation Plan, in 1982 (SWCB, 1982).

Nutrient reduction has also been considered, and control measures have been implemented as part of the effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. In 1987, the Virginia General Assembly took action to reduce nutrient enrichment by enacting a phosphate detergent ban. The next step was taken in March 1988, when the Virginia SWCB adopted the Policy for Nutrient-Enriched Waters and a water quality standard designating certain waters as nutrient-enriched. Under the policy, municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants with flows higher than 1 mgd are required to remove phosphorus to meet a 2 mg/L limit. Facilities were given up to 3 years to complete plant modifications to meet this requirement.

IMPACTS OF WASTEWATER TREATMENT Pollutant Loading and Water Quality Trends

Pollutant loads from POTWs have been reduced significantly over the past three decades. In 1971, a large number of the municipal wastewater treatment plants provided primary treatment. By 1984, there were more than 20 major point source (municipal and industrial) discharges in the James River estuary from Richmond to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Table 9-2 lists the major municipal and industrial treatment facilities discharging to the James River during 1983. Figure 9-6 illustrates the locations of these point sources. Some of the municipal facilities were consolidated to form re-

TABLE 9-2 Major Point Source Loads to the James River Estuary in September 1983

Point Source Discharger

River Mile

Flow (mgd)

CBODu (lb/day)


0 0

Post a comment