4/24/2000 -- -- Contacts:
April 24, 2000. Charlottesville, VA. From Northern Virginia to Wythe County, 250 Virginia anglers will collect 450 water samples to determine how acid rain may be damaging the state's mountain brook trout streams. The water sampling is controlled scientifically as part of the Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study (VTSSS 2000) and is coordinated by the Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited (VCTU). Anglers will collect the samples from April 24-30 and deliver them to University of Virginia's Department of Environmental Sciences lab for analysis.
The loss of the St. Mary's River 15 years ago to acid rain damage is motivating many of the Trout Unlimited volunteers and others participating in the study. Located in the George Washington National Forest, this pristine river experienced dramatic losses of aquatic insects and trout. While pollution was the suspect, the cause was not as obvious to the eye as a chemical spill or pipe spewing sludge into the river. Instead, fishery biologists revealed that the St. Mary's blue ribbon trout fishery had fallen prey to a silent killer, acid rain.
"St. Mary's was a great loss, but it could be an important indicator of a much larger problem in similar habitats in Virginia," said Catharine Tucker, who is helping coordinate the TU volunteers. "As an angler, I rely on healthy trout streams and the solitude of mountain streams to escape from the stresses of everyday life. The St. Mary's was a particular favorite where my son, then 8 years old, caught his first native trout on a fly he had tied himself.
"By volunteering in this study, we will help collect scientific data that will prove critical to maintaining the long-term health of Virginia's brook trout streams."
Said Rick Webb, a research scientist with UVA's Department of Environmental Sciences and VTSSS Project Coordinator, "I remain impressed by Virginia TU's commitment to this project and their home waters. Twelve years ago, TU helped UVA organize and coordinate 165 sample collectors for this groundbreaking research. This year they have helped recruit, organize, and train 250 volunteers to help UVA conduct this important acid deposition study."
VTSSS 2000 will re-examine 344 Virginia brook trout streams sampled in 1987 to determine changes that have occurred in acidity levels. Water samples collected this week will provide a basis for examining long-term changes related to acidic deposition while accounting for the effects of season, flow, and other sources of short-term variation. This on-going research diagnosed six percent of Virginia brook trout streams as "chronically acidic," meaning that they can no longer host viable populations of brook trout.
The brook trout, Virginia's state fish, is more acid-tolerant than other trout. The decline of a brook trout population because of acid rain is a sign that many other elements of the aquatic and surrounding forest ecosystem have suffered as well.
Virginia TU members are well aware of the destruction caused by acid rain to New York's Adirondacks and are anxious to determine the extent to which their home waters are vulnerable. While most Americans sympathize with the fate of the more than 500 Adirondack lakes and ponds that can no longer support the plant and animal life they once did due to acid rain, few understand that acid rain is not limited to that region. In fact, acid rain is impairing aquatic ecosystems throughout the entire Appalachian region.
"This study gives Virginia a head start," said Virginia TU Council Chairman Jay Henderson. "[It is] something our fellow anglers in New York probably would have appreciated were the science available back then. I think it is our responsibility to monitor and protect the health of Virginia trout streams."
The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 include provisions for periodic measurements to evaluate the effectiveness of mandated emission reductions. VTSSS 2000 is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service. It will provide critical and scientifically credible data that will help evaluate current environmental standards and whether the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 provide enough protection for acid-sensitive watersheds in western Virginia.