James River keeps B- grade following sewage spill this summer

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — One of Virginia’s largest and most popular bodies of water got a “B-” from the James River Association this year.

The James River was given that grade nearly four months after a sewage spill forced people out of the water for an extended period of time.

The James River Association said the river has received the same letter grade since 2015.

The James’ health and restoration process is evaluated every two years which is graded on wildlife and people’s efforts to reduce pollution.

Jamie Brunkow, the riverkeeper and Senior Advocacy Manager with the James River Association, said though the grade has remained steady– the water is threatened.

“A lot of that additional polluted runoff from all that rain caused some of our scores to dip in the 2021 report, so we actually saw the river is vulnerable,” Brunkow said. “It is at risk.”

He said one of the things that are alarming to the association’s workers is the river’s low population of American Shad fish.

“They were once one of the most abundant fish that you would find in the James River but because of overfishing, loss of habitat, dams, a whole host of issues we’ve seen their numbers decline over the years,” said Brunkow. “They’ve reached an all-time low in the last year.”

Brunkow said the association is calling on state leaders to pay for an emergency recovery plan to help restore American Shad fish.

Compared to 30 years ago, the James River is a lot cleaner and safer, according to Brunkow. He said the association wants to continue that progress and strive to meet the state’s goals in pollution reduction.

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