An eagle sits in a tree in the Cherry Point area along the Blackwater River. - Jeff Turner | Tidewater News

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Riverkeeper Report: Blackwater a nasty, green 84 degrees

Published 9:11am Friday, July 8, 2011

Spirit of Moonpie, Freezing Deer and I spent the 2nd through the 3rd on the Blackwater below Franklin.

The water was nasty, green, 84 degrees, and the dissolved oxygen at the surface was 2.71 ppm.

We spent the first part of the day helping out at the Robo-Regatta held at Barrett’s Landing. That was a real hoot. Cardboard boats were made by teams and launched to see who could paddle a predetermined course the fastest.

I was very surprised by the quality of the boats entered. I fully expected to be rescuing people from the bacteria laden river that day.

I was wrong, and the event was really cool. Maybe next year more folks will jump on the bandwagon, or boat I guess I should say.

Trash on this trip was not too bad. However, most of the river had this green sheen going on, and it was that way most everywhere we went.

The main water quality issue I saw was all of the cow poop lying on the shore and in the river from the cows on the Pretlow Farm. That really adds a lot of nutrients to the water helping to cause that green sheen not to mention the E. Coli influx from all that poop.

We found a 55-gallon drum that came from Franklin Public Works, but could not get it out of the water because it was so heavy. I contacted Franklin Fire and Rescue, and they and public works got it out of the river.

So that was very much appreciated, and it was very nice they did that. It’s really great to get that kind of help from the city.

The fishing on this trip was just okay, and actually, we only fished during the day for about an hour. It was just so hot!

We fished several hours that one night, but only caught a blue and a yellow cat. Moonpie suggested we throw the yellow and blue cat in a bucket together to see if they would turn green, but I told her I didn’t think it worked that way.

We rode down to check on the eagles at the Cherry Grove nesting site. I was surprised to see the two young eagles hatched this year still hanging around. One was in the nest, and the other was flying around, but not going far.

There was one parent present, so I guess the young eagles are still being taught their survival lessons.

We saw a few snakes, and actually had a brown water snake swim right up to the boat. At first I thought we were going to get boarded. I looked around and Freezing Deer and Moonpie had already grabbed weapons, so I waved the serpent off with a well thrown nab.

All in all it was a good trip. I’m hoping the next time we get out, the water will be back to black because I don’t want to see a green river when we go visit the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is riverkeeper for the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, an environmentally conscious organization that focuses on keeping local waterways healthy. BNRP’s parent organization is The Waterkeeper Alliance. Contact Turner at his website, www.blackwaternottoway.com.

  • standingbear

    Turner’s column is one of the best features of the Tidewater News.Enjoyable and informative.Many thanks to this ‘trio’.

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  • http://www.blackwaternottoway.com Jeff Turner

    I do not have a means to measure flow. However if you go to
    http://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/uv/?site_no=02050000&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,62620,00062
    USGS has a monitoring station under the new Rt58 bridge in Franklin. If you go to that site you can get flow rate which is presented as discharge rate in cubic feet per second, gage height water temp and rainfall.
    You are correct I.P.’s annual fall release to the BW by their DEQ permit had to meet flow, temp and DO requirements before they could open the gates to begin draw down of the big pond. This requirement was mainly so the DO (dissolved oxygen) in the river would not go down when the water they released with a high BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) mixed.

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    • employee2

      I was going to offer you the same site and the information is correct on the mill. I used to work in the Technical department with the environmental engineers and techs.

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  • employee2

    Hey Jeff, do you have an instrument to measure flow? The low flow(lack of rain) is the most likely culprit to the river temperature. When the mill was active they monitored many conditions of the river(s) before they were allowed to release. They also did it during the fall/winter when flow rates were high. The dissolved oxygen was also higher with the higher flow and lower temperature.

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