James River’s water quality grade increases slightly

It’s safe to swim in the river most of the time in Lynchburg, and the fishing is great all the time, officials of the James River Association said Tuesday in their report on water quality.But there still is too much sediment flowing into the river, resulting in an overall score of 53 percent healthy and a grade of C when graded on a curve, said Pat Calvert, Upper James Riverkeeper for the association, which is a nonprofit conservation group based in Richmond.The group’s next target is waterborne dirt flowing from construction projects, farm fields and city streets littered with everything from sandwich wrappers to oil, soil and spilled chemicals.

The 53-percent mark is up two percentage points since the association’s last appraisal two years ago; the rating covers the river’s entire 340-mile length from the Covington area to the Chesapeake Bay.Calvert,Philippines quake victims need shelter, during a news conference on Percival’s Island Tuesday, said there are less bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus in the river because sewage treatment plants have been upgraded in cities along its course.Calvert gave Lynchburg a score of 113 percent on curbing raw sewage overflows and reducing industrial-source pollution during the past 20 years.Those efforts have made the river safe for fishing and swimming, except sometimes after heavy rains, Calvert said.James Talian, manager of Lynchburg’s combined sewer overflow program, said it has reduced the number of places that discharge raw sewage during rainstorms from 132 to 20 over the decades.

That effort has caused numerous detours and traffic disruptions, but those are nearing an end as work on the Rivermont Avenue segment draws to a close.Construction equipment roared nearby on the city’s huge James River sewer interceptor line at Washington and Jefferson streets while Calvert was speaking, leading him to say, “Lynchburg is doing it right” by controlling surface-water runoff while things are being built.

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