Dumping Limestone to Help a River

By: Meryl Conant
By: Meryl Conant

For the second time ever, an Augusta County river and seven streams bathed in some extra attention Thursday. The US Forest Service, along with groups like Dominion and Trout Unlimited, tried to breathe more life into the St. Mary's River.

"Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s this river was famous up and down the east cost for being an excellent trout stream," explained Dominion's Dan Genest. "People came from Maine and New York to fish it."

But soon those famous trout started dying. The river was steeped in acid from acid rain and snow.

"Acid rain comes from pollution from factories and automobiles the cars we drive and electricity we use," Genest said.

Thursday, an effort was underway to reverse some of the damage with 200 tons of limestone sand dumped into the river.

"Basically it's like giving the river Tums or a Rolaids," explained Dawn Kirk of the Forest Service.

"Limestone neutralizes the acid from the acid rain and restores the river to temporary health," Genest added.

A short term solution and a limited one at that, with many Old Dominion rivers in a similar acid fix.

"We're not going to do this everywhere, this is a special place in a specific situation," Kirk said.

But for now, fish and insects in at least one problem spot have limestone coming to their rescue.

The Forest Service last dumped limestone into the St. Mary's River in 1999.

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