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Watershed partnership effort leads to cleaner, healthier river

Release Date: 9/16/2003
Contact Information: Roy Seneca (215) 814-5567

Contact: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567
SENECA ROCKS, W. Va. - EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh joined government leaders and local volunteers here today to recognize a successful water quality improvement project in a tributary of the Potomac River in eastern West Virginia.

The event commemorated removing from a list of impaired waterways in West Virginia the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The 45.8-mile river is in Pendleton and Grant counties in West Virginia, with a portion of the watershed in Highland County, Virginia.

“The North Fork project is a successful multi-agency watershed partnership that solved a water quality problem on a scenic, high quality trout stream,” said Welsh, who oversees EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

Under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, the North Fork has been listed since 1996 on the West Virginia list of impaired waters because fecal coliform concentrations violated the water quality standards. Through numerous best management practices funded under federal and state programs, water quality in the North Fork has improved such that the stream no longer exceeds listing criteria. EPA approved an updated 303(d) list in June 2003 that no longer includes the North Fork.

Numerous federal and state agencies, and local stakeholders worked together to clean this area of the watershed of non-point source pollution of high levels of fecal bacteria from water running off beef and poultry farms.
Local groups participating in the project included the North Fork Watershed Association, Trout Unlimited, Eastern Panhandle Soil Conservation District, Potomac Valley Soil Conservation District, Potomac Headwaters RC&D Council, West Virginia University College of Agriculture and Forestry, and Pilgrims Pride/Wampler-Longacre Foods.

More than 85 percent of the farmers in the region have signed on to implement best management practices to reduce harmful runoff.

Non-point source pollution is caused by rainfall or snow melt moving over and through the ground, picking up and carrying away natural and human-made pollutants, depositing them into the water. Best management practices include stream bank fencing, relocation of feedlots away from streams, construction of roofs over feeding areas, planting vegetation along stream banks, and controlling bacteria, sediment and nutrient pollution.

As of 2001, 4,100 tons of poultry litter and 1,600 tons of beef manure are being properly managed and are no longer subject to runoff in the North Fork River. These efforts resulted in thousands of tons of animal waste now being properly managed, which decreases the amount of polluted runoff to the river.