So what IS the connection between my home and my water quality?

LCSC Ad Leesburg Today 8 April 2011

If you have seen our Ad in Leesburg Today, you may wonder ‘Exactly what IS the connection between what my family does at home, the quality of the water in county streams and the water we drink?’ and ‘Why should I show support for the draft Chesapeake Bay Ordinance?’  As far as you know, the tap water is fine with no reported problems. But there is more to the quality of your water than meets the eye and taste buds.

First consider that every drop of water you get from the tap has been on a long journey that began when it fell to the ground.  Once it hits the ground or an impermeable surface such as a roof top or driveway, rain water will go one of four places:  back into the air (evaporation); into the ground; along the top of the ground downhill to the nearest waterway or pond; or into gutters, storm drains or culverts and then to a stormwater pond or waterway such as a stream or river.

Next consider that water is an excellent solvent. It will pick up and carry both loose soil (sediment) and many chemicals such as the nitrogen and phosphorus compounds used in lawn and crop fertilizers.  When surface water flows into creeks and streams it often carries these and many other pollutants such as bacteria from pet waste and motor oil from parking lots and driveways.

‘So what has this to do with me?’ you ask.  The majority of families who get water piped into their homes are receiving water withdrawn from local reservoirs or the Potomac River which is filtered and treated before being pumped into the distribution system to your home.  And this water came from where?  The water draining from roofs, driveways and land to the west of your house.  Right now you may be thinking either ‘Yuck – I am drinking water from someone’s lawn!’ or ‘Wow – my water company is doing a great job cleaning up the water before it gets to me’ and you would be correct in both cases.

What can be done to keep sediment and chemicals out of the water flowing into the creeks and river and keep water in County streams and the Potomac River cleaner?

‘Streamside buffers’ are one answer.  Vegetated strips of land bordering waterways composed of trees, shrubs and grasses, with their miles of tiny roots hold soil in place, keep the ground permeable to water, and best of all, filter out pollutants of all kinds. These buffers work 24/7, need little maintenance, and have been shown to work very effectively at cleaning up water BEFORE it reaches streams and BEFORE it is taken out by water treatment plants.  Protecting streamside buffers is a major part of the draft Chesapeake Bay Planning Ordinance (CBPO) that is currently before the Board of Supervisors for review.  In spite of its title, the CBPO is first and foremost about cleaning up the water in Loudoun County streams and that is why the Stream Coalition wants your support for its approval.  It is also true that cleaner streams in Loudoun County will also help clean up the water in the Potomac River and thus the water in the Chesapeake Bay.

‘Stewardship’ means that we are willing to do what we can at home, work and school, and as a County to filter out these pollutants so we can tell our neighbors downstream, ‘the muck stops here in Loudoun.’   While we are concerned first and foremost with the health of county streams and the waters they carry, the productivity of the Bay is greatly diminished due to increased amounts of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus coming in large part from suburban lawns, agricultural operations, and unfiltered runoff. With lower levels of these pollutants the Bay has a better chance of generating the seafood, income and tax revenue that we used to depend upon in Virginia and other Bay states.

Will cleaner water in the streams keep water rates down for my family?

When you pay your water bill you pay for the delivery of treated water to your home and the cost of the treatment.  Dirtier water requires more time, chemicals, equipment and related costs to bring it up to water quality standards for drinking water.  Therefore the cleaner the water reaching the treatment plant the less costly it is to treat and the lower the water rates that you pay.

So in a nutshell:  Rain falls.  Rain flows to streams.  Streamside buffers help clean up pollution picked up by rainwater.  Cleaner water flows in streams to reservoirs and the Potomac River.  Cleaner water means less time and money to provide drinking water and water rates remain lower.  The Bay is cleaner, more productive and generates more tax revenue which benefits ALL citizens in Virginia.

We hope that this has helped you to understand how this issue affects you, your family, and in fact all of us here in Loudoun County.  We all have a stake in ensuring clean water.  We all drink the water and you can help keep it cleaner.

Please take a moment to read the posts on this website that explain:

  • The recent changes made to the draft ordinance that let affected homeowners build play areas and put tool sheds in their back yards without extra red tape, cost or permitting;
  • The facts of what the CBPO requires versus the misinformation and myths put forth by groups opposing the ordinance; and

Let’s Stand Up and Speak Out for Clean Streams on Monday, May 2nd

The Loudoun Clean Streams Coalition will hold a rally at the Loudoun County Government Center on Monday, May 2nd, 2011 from 6:00 to 7:00pm and we invite you to add your voice and show your support for implementing the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) as a critical way to protect our streams.

As discussed in detail on this website, we believe that implementing the CBPO is an important step toward protecting water quality in county streams – water that ultimately is withdrawn from the Potomac River and Goose Creek to be used for drinking water in most homes in the eastern half of Loudoun County.  While we freely admit that the Riparian Buffers (streamside vegetated filter strips) protected by the CBPO will not solve all of the chemical and sediment pollution problems noted in county streams, they are already in place in many areas of the county, require little maintenance, work 24/7 to filter water BEFORE it enters the streams they abut, and are scientifically endorsed as very effective natural filters. Given the seriously compromised state of county streams and the already high levels of sediment and chemical pollutants in the Potomac, the CBPO makes not only good ecological sense but it will save many cents as well by saving the amount of time, money and effort needed by water treatment plants to bring river water to drinking water standards.

As the Board tailors the CBPO to fit Loudoun County, this is a chance for folks who take environmental health seriously to demonstrate our concern about the health and future of our streams.  Join us in encouraging the Board to finish its work quickly and adopt this protection

On May 2nd, we will gather outside the Government Center (inside in the event of rain) to encourage the Board to act, share other ways we can all help to protect and restore our streams, listen to some great music and have a little ice cream in honor of our passion for clean streams.

Lincoln-based singer/songwriter and former environmental engineer, Andrew McKnight, will raise our spirits and our aspirations with several songs that he has written about the health of streams and the role of water in our lives.  A passionate, caring and insightful defender of the environment for many years, Andrew will give special flair to this event and fill our heads and hearts with a good dose of ‘if you really care about something, then speak out.’  For a taste of what Andrew’s performance holds in store, swing by You Tube or his website and listen to ‘The Other Way’ which poses an interesting question with regard to polluted waterways.

We all drink from a common cup.  Some of the rain that fell on your yard and your neighbors’ yards this week will flow from someone’s tap before long. Or to re-spin the old phrase, ‘What goes to ground, comes around’.

So please join us on May 2nd and share an hour of your time to rally for cleaner water and a healthier environment.  Invite your friends to come too!

Loudoun Environmental Council: Real Green? No, Realtors!

The Loudoun Environmental Council’s web site (www.lecva.org) does a dandy job of giving a first impression that they are an environmentally concerned, environmentally literate group of Loudoun citizens and ‘experts’ who have the environmental best interests of Loudoun County citizens at heart.  Think again!

A careful reading of the web site reveals their true agenda: blocking passage of the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) so that development in Loudoun County and the siting of projects adjacent to perennial streams can continue without any constraints placed on the negative impacts such development and siting may have to streams or water quality in those streams – water that many county citizens will end up drinking after filtration and treatment at a water distribution facility.

They never tell you who they are, where they are based, or what their background is.  They purport to want to preserve the quality of local water ways so that you and the kids can go canoeing yet they want to jeopardize the natural filters that protect these waterways from becoming even more polluted than they already are.  They ‘forget’ to mention that over the past five years, stream sampling has shown on average that 62% of the stream sites tested had levels of E. coli in excess of state approved levels for swimming and recreation.  They would have you believe that this ordinance is all about the Bay and Blue Crabs and not about the quality of water here in Loudoun which it most certainly is, and here’s the kicker, the LEC directors who filed with the state are Roy Jacobsen and Carol Kearney who just happen to bear the names of two local real estate developers in Loudoun County.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Check it out for yourself by going to the State Corporation Commission Office of the Clerk’s web site at the following URL and doing a search on ‘Loudoun Environmental Council’:  http://www.scc.virginia.gov/clk/index.aspx.