Harrisonburg Public Works Department seeks feedback on water pollutant reduction plan

The Public Works Department is now asking residents to provide any comments or concerns.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 5:26 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Harrisonburg Public Works Department is currently seeking feedback on the third phase of its Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Action Plan. It’s a long-term plan to reduce the amount of pollutants in the city’s waterways with a focus on nitrogen and phosphorous.

The goal of the five-year plan is to reduce the presence of nitrogen and phosphorus by 100% by 2028. The Public Works Department has already reduced it by around 40% through various projects like the Blacks Run Stream restoration.

“We have projects like the stream restoration project that helps to reconnect flood plains to be able to get that water to go over its banks, settle out in the flood plain area, and drop a lot of its nutrients and sediments there. We’ve also done several riparian buffers throughout the area,” said Keith Thomas, Harrisonburg Public Works Sustainability and Environmental Manager.

Projects like the stream restoration have had great success so far and the public works department hopes to keep that going with the next phase of the plan.

“We definitely have an impaired body of water with Blacks Run but we have seen significant improvements over the last ten years. We’ve seen the return of several fish species that indicate cleaner water, more oxygen in the water,” said Thomas.

The Public Works Department is now asking residents to provide any comments or concerns about the plan and its proposed best management practices and pollution reduction projects.

“General topics about water quality are what the plan is about, so any ideas they have or if there is something that they think is missing, any other comments about our stormwater program, in general, are welcome. We’ll work to either incorporate it into the plan or address why it wasn’t required in the plan, ” said Thomas.

Projects identified in the plan will either help to retain and slow down water or filter out stormwater. Thomas and his staff will also be providing public education about stormwater and water quality in the city as part of the plan.

“We do have practices that we encourage people to do at home: not fertilizing if you the soil doesn’t need it, if you do have to fertilize keeping it off the pavement areas where it can become runoff, or fertilizing only when the vegetation is actively growing,” said Thomas. “We encourage people to plant more trees, things like rain barrels are great opportunities to reduce runoff from properties. If everyone did a little bit it would all add up.”

You can review the action plan here. Any comments must be submitted by October 5 and can be sent to Thomas at stormwater@harrisonburgva.gov or by mail to 320 E. Mosby Road, Harrisonburg, VA 22801.