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Cleaner Water In Virginia Rivers, Runoff Still Problematic

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States like Virginia are doing a better job keeping rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay, like the Potomac River, clean.
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States like Virginia are doing a better job keeping rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay, like the Potomac River, clean.

States that have rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay, including Virginia, are making progress in addressing water pollution. That's the word from a pair of non-profits keeping an eye on the numbers.

Every two years, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a group called Choose Clean Water are checking to see how well actions taken by farms, cities, suburbs and wastewater treatment plants are working. Are they successfully cutting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous flowing into the Bay?

So far, the groups say, all states did better than expected in some categories and fell short in others. Virginia appears to be doing a good job cleaning up waste water and septic systems, while farmers have created grass buffers and restored wetlands to help clean water. Chuck Epes is a spokesman for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"Wetlands are nature's way of filtering, purifying and cleansing water as it runs off land," says Epes. "Wetland soils absorb water. Wetland plants — cat tails and reeds — absorb pollution: nitrogen and phosphorous."

On the other hand, efforts to control polluted runoff from cities fell short.

"Basically, every time it rains and hits pavements, streets, parking lots, and your front yard and my backyard, that water generally runs off very quickly and carries all sorts of flotsam and jetsam into our rivers and creeks," says Epes. "It's the one area of Bay pollution clean up that's actually getting worse, not better."

Epes said green buffer zones of native plants and trees could help. He praised the legislature for limiting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in lawn fertilizer and predicted those measures would mean dramatic cuts in urban and suburban pollution in the future.

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