The James River Still Haunted by Toxic Runoff and Bacteria

Environment Virginia Releases 10 Scary Water Facts in Time for Halloween
For Immediate Release

Richmond, VA -- In anticipation of Halloween, Environment Virginia unveiled What's Brewing in the James: Ten Scariest Water Facts, showing that, while improving, a terrifying concoction of chemicals, bacteria, and other pollutants still plague the James and Virginia’s waterways.

“Halloween is the season to be scared, but Virginians shouldn’t have to be afraid of swimming, fishing and floating down the James River,” said Environment Virginia’s Frances Klein. “Major polluters like Honeywell Inc. still dump toxic chemicals and hazardous waste into the James, turning it into a potion of pollution.”

In its new, frightening fact sheet, Environment Virginia found that:

1) 11,821,961 million pounds of pollution were dumped into Virginia waterways in 2012, with the Lower James ranking 9th highest for discharges of developmental toxins.

2) The James River is at risk from 1,100 toxic storage sites, up to 5 billion gallons of coal ash, and millions of gallons of crude oil traveling along the shore each week.

3) Honeywell Inc.'s Hopewell Plant dumped 170,077 pounds of toxic chemicals into Virginia’s James River in 2012; they also spent over 5 million in campaign contributions the same year.

4) Area veterinarians have issued warnings to dog owners to keep pets away from and out of parts of the James River because of blue-green algae that can cause skin and stomach irritation.

5) The Striped Bass population has been in steady decline since 2010 due to algae limiting the oxygen flow in the water.

6) More than 200 miles of the James River are under a “fish advisory” that limits the number of fish that can be safely eaten due to contaminants.

7) E. Coli, a harmful bacteria, has appeared in the waters around Tredgar Iron Works swimming area at levels 5 times higher than the 250ml quality standard.

8) Traces of the chemical Kepone, which affect the reproduction system, can still be found in the James though the Kepone plant was shut down in 1975.

9) 90% of the water samples collected in the summer of 2015 from the freshwater portion of the James Estuary tested positive for the algal toxin microcystin.

10) 57% of Virginia’s streams, and drinking water for over two million Virginians, are not guaranteed protection under the Clean Water Act because polluters and their allies have halted the Clean Water Rule in the courts.

To protect the Virginia’s wetlands and tributaries, Environment Virginia called on Congress to oppose any attacks on clean water.

At the end of the summer, Environment Virginia celebrated as the U.S. EPA’s Clean Water Rule finally went into effect, restoring Clean Water Act protections to waterways nationwide, including more than 28,000 miles of waterways in Virginia and the drinking water for more than 2 million Virginians. This was the biggest step forward for clean water in a decade.

Unfortunately, the Clean Water Rule is now under attack in both federal courts and the United States Congress.

“Halloween witches and ghosts should be should be scary. The state of the James shouldn’t be,” added Klein. “We urge Senator Warner to support clean water so that we can give the James River the Halloween treat it deserves: protection from pollution.”


Environment Virginia is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental organization working to protect clean air, clean water, and open spaces.