Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rain Barrel Contest Winners Announced!

Winner: Most Creative by Bellevue Elementary School
Winner: Best in Show Grand Prize by Southampton Elementary School

Winner: Best Environmental Message by Overby-Shepherd Elementary School

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What You Need to Know about the Zika Virus

Yellow fever mosquito
Among the 57 mosquito species commonly found in Virginia, only two, the Asian tiger and the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti) are known to transmit the Zika virus.

They behave differently from other species as they lay their eggs only in containers of water, not in puddles, ponds, or other bodies of water.

They fly around primarily during the day, but will enter homes and rest on the walls. Once inside, they'll bite both during the day and night.

Asian tiger mosquito
Although the yellow fever mosquito has been in America since settler times, arriving in water barrels on ships, the Asian tiger arrived in a shipload of tires unloaded in Texas in the 1990s. It is tolerant of Virginia winters, so has spread to every county and now is the most common urban/suburban pest mosquito. It can carry and transmit more than 20 different species of virus, including West Nile and Zika.

Mosquito breeding habitats
Property maintenance is the best deterrent. Spraying has not been effective against the Asian tiger. The most effective and environmentally sound method of eliminating it is to dump or treat any container on your property that can hold water. Containers are their most common habitat, so you are the first line of defense against the Asian tiger mosquito!

Abandoned tires are a favorite habitat, as well as flooded boats, knots or holes in trees, uncovered rain barrels, plastic-lined ornamental pools, cisterns, watering troughs, seldom-used swimming pools, flower pots, drain pipes, gutters, children's toys, buckets, jars, cans, bird baths, old sleds, even the creases in the cushions of lawn furniture -- anywhere water can sit for several days to a week before evaporating. They only need a teaspoon of water to breed! Ponds and creeks are not natural breeding habitats because frogs, fish, bats, insects, and other predators eat up the mosquito larvae.

If you can't regularly dump out the water from a container on your property, use mosquito dunks to treat the water.These pellets which can be purchased at hardware stores or online, and are safe to use if you have pets or farm animals.

You'll notice a difference if you keep your property free of mosquito-breeding standing water. Check at least twice a month. Once a week is ideal since the maturation process of a mosquito is two weeks from egg to adult. Tell your neighbors so they can dump their containers and keep your whole block mosquito-free.

Unusually High Water Bill?

Is your water bill unusually high? If you haven’t increased your usage significantly, you may have a water leak. There are several ways to check for a leak. One way is to check the indicator on your water meter. Make sure there is nothing inside using water. After ensuring this, go to your meter (under meter cover) and see if the usage indicator (blue dial) is turning. If it is, then water is flowing through and could indicate a leak in the water service line between the meter and your home or building. It could also indicate that water is being used inside the home or building.




To determine if you have a leak in your water service line, close off the main valve* to your home and look at your water meter. If the indicator is turning, this is an indication you have a leak in the pipe between your water meter and the main valve to your home. It could also mean that the main valve is not shutting off water completely.

If the indicator on your water meter was turning but stopped when you shut off the main valve, this indicates that something inside is using water. With the main valve open (and the indicator on the meter turning), turn off the valve to individual fixtures (toilets, sinks, etc.) one at a time. Check the indicator each time you turn off a fixture valve to see if it stops turning. If it does, the last fixture turned off is the culprit.

Toilets can often be the cause of a “mystery” water leak. Open the cover on the tank. If the water level is above the overflow tube, there is a problem. The water level should be approximately ½ inch or so below the top of the overflow pipe. Adjust the float level, so that the water is turned off at that level. If the valve controlled by the float is leaking, it may need to be replaced.

Toilet leaks can also be due to a leak at the flapper valve that lets water flow into the toilet bowl. To test for this, put a drop or two of food coloring into the tank (not the bowl). Wait about 10 minutes and see if the colored water shows up in the bowl. If it does, your flapper valve may need to be replaced. If you do not have food coloring, you can request a free leak detection kit. Email or call 646-5224.

*Usually the main water valve is located where the water supply pipe enters your home or office. It may be near your clothes washer or hot water heater. In some cases, it may be located under the house in the crawl space. Be sure to locate and mark the main water valve before you need it. That way, you will be able to find and close it quickly should a water leak occur.



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Second Baptist Church Gets a Rain Garden

Second Baptist Church in the Broad Rock neighborhood installed a large-scale rain and community garden on the church's property last month. First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe attended the ribbon-cutting.

The rain garden will capture and filter pollutants that run off from the church's paved parking lot and prevent them from entering the stormwater system and local streams, helping the city of Richmond and the state meets its Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals. Additionally, rainwater from the roof will be captured in a 10,000 gallon cistern and used to irrigate the community garden, providing fresh vegetables to the congregation and local community.

The project is part of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's holistic restoration project in the Broad Rock neighborhood, which includes community education and other conservation activities, like buffer plantings and residential rain gardens. The project was funded through a partnership of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Community Foundation of Richmond and Central Virginia, RBC, and REI Outfitters.











Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Flushable" Wipes are Not Flushable!

Excerpted from Water Online website:

Flushable wipes and similar products have been a blight for wastewater utilities in recent years. Wipe manufacturers label their products as flushable, but they do not disintegrate like toilet paper in the collection system. Flushable wipes are mislabeled as sewer and septic system safe, but they do not break apart like toilet paper. This causes downstream clogs for treatment plants.

Members of the wastewater industry say these are some of the most troublesome nonwoven materials in their collection systems:

Non-flushable paper, hand towels, tissues and napkins: 47 percent
Non-flushable baby wipes: 18 percent
Feminine hygiene products: 13 percent
Household wipes: 14 percent
Flushable wipes: 8 percent

Though "flushable" products make up only 8 percent, it is important to also consider them "do not flush."

In 2013 and 2014, class action suits were filed against leading manufacturers of "flushable" wipes for property damage due to clogged pipes in homes and businesses. "The Guardian" website says "baby wipes designed for adults have become the scourge of residential and municipal sewer systems around the world."

Baby wipes tend to end up in the diaper pail with the disposable diaper and go to the landfill. Most adults don't keep a diaper pail in the bathroom and are reluctant to put used wipes in the bathroom trash can, so they buy so-called "flushable" wipes, thinking that's the solution. But the majority of wipes do not biodegrade quickly enough to avoid clogging pipes. The next thing you know, you have to call a plumber to have your drains snaked.

"The Guardian" reports that flushable wipes were a major factor in London's famous "fatberg," a 15-ton lump of congealed grease that nearly flooded out the city's sewer system and took three weeks to drill apart in 2013. The combination of grease poured down the drain and wet wipes created the gigantic clog.

Instructions to "do not flush" on wipes are often hidden on the package, in tiny print or under the package flap so you don't see it until you've already purchased and opened it.

If you like wet wipes, consider alternatives. Just dampening toilet tissue often produces the same benefits. You can dampen with water or witch hazel, making your own safe medicated wipes. Or put a small, lidded diaper pail in the bathroom with a plastic bag inside and tie up and dispose of wet wipes in the regular trash.

Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18 is Natural Gas Utility Workers Day

Why do we remember March 18? And why does natural gas smell so bad? There's a story behind it. Today is national Natural Gas Utility Workers' Day! March 18 is the date of the New London, Texas school explosion in 1937 that led to the widespread odorization of natural gas and an increased emphasis on safety. We add a rotten egg smell (mercapton) to natural gas, which is normally odorless, so you can detect gas leaks. The New London school was heated with 72 gas heaters. The School Board canceled their natural gas contract to save money and had plumbers install a tap into a residue gas line to extract the natural gas, which would have just been burned off. The connection to the residue line was faulty. Gas built up inside the enclosed crawlspace of the school and was ignited when an electric sander was turned on, causing a spark that ignited the gas-air mixture. The death toll was approximately 295, the third deadliest disaster in Texas history. The Texas legislature mandated within weeks that mercaptan be added to natural gas, the strong odor making leaks quickly detectable. The practice spread worldwide, as did increased awareness of the need for natural gas safety awareness. Safety is now a vital aspect to natural gas distribution. The employees of the Department of Public Utilities endeavor to make natural gas delivery as safe as possible. Our natural gas utility workers work hard every day to keep your home warm, your clothes drying, your food cooking, your showers hot, and your hamburgers grilling.