Pamela Northam lends a hand in placing mussels back in the South River

Virginia first lady Pamela Northam in the South River.
Virginia first lady Pamela Northam in the South River.(wvir)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 7:01 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia first lady Pamela Northam got her feet wet during a visit to the Shenandoah Valley. Students from Waynesboro High School joined Pamela Northam to put mussels back in a river.

They joined together at the South River in Waynesboro Tuesday afternoon.

“And today we’re releasing mussels,” Northam said. ‘We know that they are an important part as an indicative species, of what’s happening in environments and many of them are threatened or endangered here in Virginia.”

These are fresh water mussels. Students and the first lady all suited up to help bring the river back to life by placing the species back in the clean water.

“Water quality has improved to the point that we can put the mussels back into the water and they’ll survive and function to enhance the water quality that we already see here,” Ryan Brown, the executive director of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, said.

This restoration project has been in the works since 2017.

“The state is the recipient of funds from the Dupont settlement and through time, that enabled much of this work to go on,” Brown said.

That settlement came after decades of industrial mercury contamination in the South River.

“Virginia is home to some of the greatest diversity of mussel species anywhere in the world. A good healthy mussel population benefits the water quality industry which benefits fish,” Brown said.

It’s a project that will impact our entire ecosystem.

“We restored a key part of our biodiversity and it’s so important to all of the organisms in here as well as us as human beings,” Northam said.

The impacts of the mussels in the river are going to last decades, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife.

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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