Friday, March 30, 2012

Don't Flush Prescription Drugs Down the Drain

More than seven million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet. This is a great opportunity for those who have accumulated unwanted or unused prescription drugs to safely dispose of those medications. 

Drug Take-Back Programs, which collect leftover prescription drugs, are the safest method for disposing of prescription drugs. Visit the Attorney General of Virginia's website for more information on upcoming take-back programs.

Pharmaceutical contaminants can cause serious harm to fish and wildlife living near lakes and rivers. Humans can be exposed to these chemicals when they drink water drawn from a contaminated source or eat wild game or fish. The long-term human health risks from exposure to even small amounts of these chemicals is unknown.

Home disposal has risks, but when it is done correctly, it is still a viable option.
1. Remove medication from the original container and crush the pills or add water to them to dissolve them. Then mix the medication with kitty litter or coffee grounds to make it unattractive to children or pets and unrecognizable to drug abusers who may go through your trash.
2. Place the mixture in a container with a lid or in a sealable baggie and place it in your trash.
3. When discarding original pill bottles, scratch out or remove any identification on the bottle or package.

DO NOT dispose of medications in the toilet or sink.

DO NOT give medicine to friends or family. A drug that works for you could be dangerous to someone else, and it is also potentially illegal to share medicine.

If you have teenaged children at home, keep your medications under lock and key as prescription drug abuse -- using stolen medications from home and the homes of friends for recreation -- is a leading contributor to teen drug abuse.

Friday, March 23, 2012

12th Street Green Alley Project Update

Project Location
The Department of Public Utilities' 12th Street Green Alley project involved retrofitting the existing 12th St. alley surface utilizing low impact development (LID) or “green” technologies. The LID practices implemented in the alley included a permeable paver system and an underground infiltration trench/underdrain system that provides stormwater runoff treatment and storage before being discharged into the city’s combined sewer system.

This new surface work required that all existing underground utilities and infrastructure (water, sewer, gas, city streetlight power, private utilities, etc.) be upgraded and/or replaced as needed. This effort minimized disruption in the alley and prevented future disturbance by performing all necessary work at one time. 

Utilizing LID technologies for municipal
stormwater and surface improvements is a new initiative being undertaken by the city. This project was one of two demonstration projects -- 5th St. Green Alley was the first -- being used to build a case for targeted citywide implementation of “green” development in Richmond and other urban areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Funding for this project came from the city's Wastewater and Stormwater utilities. The surface retrofit was funded by the city and a matching grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

DPU installed new underground systems for water, gas, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and power lines for the city's streetlight system. Verizon installed private utility lines within the alley.

City Lowers Natural Gas Commodity Cost

City of Richmond gas customers will notice a decrease of more than 8 percent in their total natural gas bills effective April 2012.

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced today that the commodity cost, also known as the purchased gas cost (PGC) paid by the city’s natural gas customers will decrease from $.60 to $.50 per ccf (100 cubic feet of natural gas).

“Historic lows in the price of the natural gas commodity as a result of the abundance of shale gas combined with high storage volumes and efficiencies in natural gas infrastructure maintenance have created the opportunity for cost savings in this vital energy source,” said Mayor Jones. “We are pleased that city customers are able to benefit from this savings.”

The average customer who uses 70 ccf per month will pay approximately $77.64 compared to a current price of $84.64. The city of Richmond passes along the cost of the natural gas commodity it purchases to its customers, dollar for dollar, without any markup.

City analysts periodically review and adjust commodity rates up or down based on market and weather conditions. City of Richmond natural gas bill components include the PGC cost, the customer charge and the distribution charge. Recent proposed increases to the natural gas utility bill would affect only the distribution charge and customer charge.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Up on the Roof -- The Green Roof

How often do you notice a roof? If it's the roof on the Richmond Department of Public Utilities' (DPU) Wastewater Treatment Plant effluent filtration building, you'll be sure to notice it because it is green and covered in plants.

A green roof is a permanent rooftop planting system that contains live plants. DPU installed this green roof in the fall of 2010. The building's existing roof is able to withstand the added weight of the plants.

Green roofs offer numerous benefits:

  • Stormwater runoff reduction: Green roofs can absorb up to 99 percent of one inch of rainfall. Water is slightly filtered as it flows through the soil. Even during heavy rainfall, water is delayed running off the roof, allowing additional time for the sanitary sewer system to catch up.
  • Energy savings: Green roofs provide natural insulation and can reduce heating and cooling costs. During summer months, the green roofs absorb sunlight and heat.
  • Wildlife: Plants provide natural habitat for birds and small mammals.
  • Noise reduction: Studies have shown that green roofs can reduce sound by as much as 40 decibels.
  • Longer life than traditional roofs: Green roofs are better protected against ultraviolent radiation, large fluctuations in temperature, drying winds and punctures.
An added bonus is a roof covered in plants is attractive. They provide long-lasting blooms and a change of scenery for city workers. Plants on this green roof include sedum, alliums and euphorbia, all drought-tolerant, low-maintnenace varieties with a shallow root structure.

Green roofs are not new. They have existed for thousands of years and only now are experiencing a resurgence. Consult an engineer to install a green roof on your home or business for environmental and financial benefits, or just to have a peaceful place where the air is fresh and sweet "up on the roof."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fix a Leak

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Facts on Leaks

The average household's leaks accounts for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year, enough water to wash nearly 10 months' worth of laundry.

Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more a day.

Common leaks include worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaking showerheads, all easily correctable.

Fixing these leaks can save homeowners more than 10 percent on their water bills.

Leak Detection

A good method to check for leaks is to review your winter water use. A family of four has a serious leak if winter water use exceeds 12,000 gallons per month.

Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak.

Place a drop of food coloring in your toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes, without flushing, you have a leak. (Flush immediately to avoid staining bowl once you see the color.)

A leaky faucet dripping one drip per second wastes more than 3,000 gallons per year.

Faucets and Showerheads

Fix leaky faucets by replacing washers and gaskets for wear.

A showerhead leaking 10 drips per minute wastes 500 gallons per year, enough to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher.

Most leaky showerheads can be fixed by retightening the connection using pipe tape and a wrench.


If the toilet is leaking, try replacing the flapper. Over time, this inexpensive rubber part decays or gets mineral build-up.

Watersense toilets can save more than 16,000 gallons of water per year for a family of four.


Irrigation systems should be checked each spring to ensure they were not damaged by frost or freezing.

An irrigation system that has a leak barely the thickness of a dime can waste 6,300 gallons per month.

Check garden hoses for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks when you run the hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and use pipe tape and a wrench for a tighter connection.