Heavy Rains Can Increase Water Pollutants

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli
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March, 28, 2004

Water pollution doesn't just happen overnight. It's a collection of waste from upstream.

Streams in Virginia are polluted by acid rain, pesticides, and garbage, but there's one problem that is finally getting an answer. A huge contributor is livestock and their waste.

"The way it pollutes is through Nitrogen, just like applying too much fertilizer on your yard," said Assistant Regional Forrester Greg Meade.

One answer to eliminating this problem is to plant trees near the streams and bodies of water to create what is called a riparian buffer.

"In a big rain event, the storm water, or run-off is slowed down by the trees, it's absorbed by the trees," said Meade. " When you have forested buffers, the soil is intact and thus no soil can make it out of the buffer."

The roots keep the soil firm and absorb the excess water and nutrients. With the removal of live stock and the increased growth of vegetation, the water quality is already improving. A federal program will assist with the costs of adding land plants.

"Any land owner can qualify for the same type of assistance, but planting open land or planting cut over areas back into trees. All they have to do is contact the county Forrester," said James Starr, Director of the Forest Resources Division.

Not only will the trees along the shoreline increase water quality, but also offer habitat for wildlife.

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