January 21, 2014

Runoff still hurting the Chesapeake Bay

IJoni Mitchell's lyrics, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot," came to my mind as I read about the continuing threats of rain runoff to our local waterways. All the amenities wanted by the 17 million people who live near our Chesapeake shorelines are not conducive to good water quality. One inch of rain falling on one acre of paved surface equals 30,000 gallons of polluted runoff. That's enough to fill up an 18 by 35 foot swimming pool, if you want something to picture.

So I cringe when I see another swath of land being developed. Yes, I realize that I am one of the lucky ones who chose to live here. And yes, I am part of the problem. Or at least my driveway and rooftop are. 

And today a new assault as Virginia road crews have applied trails of salty compounds on our roads, whether we get the snow or not. 

But how should we mitigate rainwater runoff. One outlet mall on Richmond route installed a porous or permeable surface that reminds me of Rice Crispies treats on much of their parking lot years ago. I thought that James City County had required it. But, obviously that requirement did NOT apply to the huge Settlers Market and nearby Courthouse Commons parking lots years later. And that is a lot of rainwater that is now draining into our creeks, and ultimately into the James River on its way to the bay. All Virginia local governments are under the gun to develop more stringent storm water regulations. So I do not understand why impermeable parking lots still appear.

Every year another 38,000 acres of land throughout the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake watershed get developed. 10,000 acres of that are hard surfaces. And more no swimming warnings are issued by the Virginia Department of Health. 

It still looks like a one-way road to me. No serious efforts to hold back that runoff will occur until the naysayers stop using terms like "toilet tax" and "rain tax."