- Forage Fish and Fish Passage Outcomes. For 20 years, ICPRB has been actively engaged in the restoration of American shad in the Potomac River and other Chesapeake tributaries and the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers have achieved their Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission population targets. ICPRB is advising the states on shad restoration in other tributaries and is a member of Bay Program workgroups for these outcomes.
- Stream Health Outcome. ICPRB is developing one of the principal measures that the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) will use to measure stream health for this outcome.
- 2017 and 2025 Watershed Implementation Plans Outcomes. ICPRB is part of the team developing the Phase 6 Chesapeake Bay Model, which is the key tool that will be used to assign pollutant load allocations to different land types and jurisdictions and to track progress in meeting pollution reduction goals.
- Water Quality Standards Attainment and Monitoring Outcome. ICPRB is involved in building and maintaining the monitoring databases at the CBP and uses its expertise to analyze those data to determine status and trends of water quality and living resources parameters.
- Citizen Stewardship, Local Leadership, Student Environmental Literacy, and Sustainable Schools, Outcomes. ICPRB runs several workshop and training programs for teachers and students. These include:
- Watershed Connections workshops for teachers, where groups of teachers build table-top watershed models using common materials. The models are then used by students to explore how changes in land use affect water quality, soil erosion, and the spread of contaminants, and how best management practices can address problems.
- Assessments of school grounds so that students and teachers can improve their schools through installation of appropriate best management practices. The assessment is performed in a classroom setting.
- Stream Monitoring/Ecology programs. Outreach to schools to help them assess their local stream. This pilot project will result in monthly lesson plans that can be used by teachers in subsequent years.
On February 16, a train including tank cars carrying crude oil derailed with some of the cars dropping into the Kanawha River in West Virginia. Although not in the Potomac basin, this event is a reminder that accidental spills of toxic materials are an ever present risk to human health and the environment. Of particular concern are events that threaten drinking water. In the metro Washington area, 75% of drinking water comes from the Potomac River. Across the basin there are 77 public water supply systems with surface water intakes. When spills occur, local emergency responders, state emergency management agencies, and federal agencies mobilize quickly to protect public health and minimize environmental impacts. For spills into the Potomac River and its major tributaries, ICPRB has a role in emergency response and on a continuing basis works with other agencies to maintain and even improve preparedness.
Spill Emergency Response
When notified of a spill ICPRB’s emergency response role is to alert downstream water utilities and water management agencies that a spill has occurred. Using ICPRB’s Emergency River Spill Model, the staff calculates contaminant concentrations and travel times to water intakes and share that information with the utilities and agencies. The spill model can calculate travel times for the Potomac River mainstem from Cumberland to Little Falls, plus the Shenandoah, South Branch Potomac, and Monocacy rivers, and Antietam and Conococheague creeks. Staff members are trained to run the spill model and carry out our spill communication procedures and they share responsibility for responding to an event at any time. Every year, spill events occur that turn out to be insignificant threats to water supply but provide regular opportunities for practicing our spill response procedures.
Spill Protection Planning
ICPRB is working with government agencies and utilities to improve our knowledge of spill risks and improve preparedness for spill events. The work is generally under the umbrella of the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP). ICPRB collaborated with other agencies in planning and executing spill exercises in 2008, 2012, and an upcoming exercise in June of this year. With each of these exercises the participating agencies gain a better understanding of the threats and identify gaps in response procedures that need to be addressed.
Prompted by a series of spill events in early 2014 (storage tank failure in Charleston, West Virginia; train derailment into the James River, Virginia; coal ash release into the Dan River, North Carolina), ICPRB began discussions with EPA Region 3 about updating the District of Columbia Source Water Assessment Plan (D.C. SWAP). A new D.C. SWAP has relevance to the entire Potomac basin upstream of Washington because the entire watershed is D.C.’s source water area and an inventory of threats to D.C. water supply can provide an inventory of threats to other water utilities in the basin. At the quarterly DWSPP meeting on February 24, the EPA representative said they hope the new DC SWAP will be “a model SWAP” for the nation.
Also in 2014, but on a separate track, the MWCOG received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to undertake a variety of water security tasks, including an inventory of spill threats to drinking water for the metro Washington area. ICPRB and DWSPP participate in the planning for both projects.
While a winter snow can lead to warm and cozy day at home, the de-icing materials used to keep traffic flowing can be negatively affecting water quality. This is especially true when the products are applied incorrectly or flow with runoff into nearby streams. Impacts are not isolated to the winter months. The road salt’s chloride can be stored in soil and groundwater only to be released into streams throughout the rest of the year. Chronic and acute chloride levels can harm both plant and animal life in and along streams. Additionally, high sodium content in sources of drinking water can lead to taste and odor challenges for water suppliers and be an issue for individuals restricted to a low-sodium diet.
To minimize the water quality impacts and maintain safe roads, some communities are exploring alternatives to road salts and changing application procedures around high quality and sensitive streams. Learn more about alternative products and application methods from the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership and the Chesapeake Bay Program.
For more on information on increasing concentrations of chloride in U.S. streams, read “River chloride trends in snow-affected urban watersheds: increasing concentrations outpace urban growth rate and are common among all seasons,” from the U.S. Geological Survey. ICPRB works to address this issue through the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership.