Riverkeeper Report: We can all help Blackwater, Nottoway

Published 9:51 am Friday, October 28, 2011

Riverkeeper Jeff Turner photographed what he believes was sludge spewing into the Blackwater River from the Franklin sewage treatment plant on Oct. 19. -- Jeff Turner | Tidewater News

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 22nd through the 24th on the Blackwater below the Steel Bridge.

The water was clear, 58 degrees and high at 8 feet on the U.S. Geological Survey Gauge at Burdette. Air temps ranged from 35 degrees to 70 degrees.

I could not have asked for more perfect weather or a more perfect trip on the river. It is what I hope heaven is like.

Trash on this trip was amazingly light and there is a reason for that. The old overhead pipeline and trestle near the pump-station have been removed from the river.

That trestle was the cause of huge logjams in the past. I have been after the City of Norfolk for years to get rid of that thing and finally it is gone.

The fishing was pretty darn good on this excursion. I caught nine catfish on limb-lines to 5 pounds. One was a blue cat, which is the first one of this species I have caught this far upriver. I also caught five largemouth after only fishing about three hours for them.

They were all small and caught on an AC Shiner. Amazingly, I even caught a bunch of really nice bream.

I needed bait for the cat lines and just could not catch any. I tried every lure I had. I finally tried a twister jig and was getting hits on that, but the fish were in really shallow water up in the woods. This made me have to reel the lure so fast to keep from getting hung up that the fish just did not have a chance to get hold of it.

So I tied a cork on my line about 20 inches up above the jig. It worked like a charm with just a really slow retrieve. Catching those bream that way was really fun.

Well, it appears that the darn coyotes are everywhere now. I heard them both nights at this campsite, and that has never happened before. So far they always seem to be on the other side of the river from where I am. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

We also saw one of the fattest, weirdest raccoons ever. Like at one in the afternoon, we were fishing along and here comes this great big fat coon. I have only heard TV raccoons make the cutesy chattering noise this one was muttering as it scurried along the shore.

When it got to us, it stopped, stood up, did some kind of salute while looking at me and proceeded on. Well, I thought Moonpie was going to have a fit. She said, “really, you’re gonna let that coon get away with that?”

“What are you talking about,” I replied?

“You mean you did not just see that raccoon give us that obscene hand signal,” Moonpie snarled.

“Hey chill out,” I replied. “All I saw was a crazy-acting coon that waved or saluted or something and went on its way.”

“Yea, it saluted all right,” Moonpie scowled. “I bet it had rabies or something.”

As we fished on, I thought about what Moonpie had said, and actually she might have been right. Kinda odd seeing one in the daytime like that. Glad it also was on the other side of the river from camp.

Now I need to ask for your help with a matter. As you can see by the accompanying picture, the Franklin sewage treatment plant on Oct. 19 was spewing activated sludge into the river, which is a mixture of wastewater, human waste/other organic matter and bacteria used to breakdown the waste.

This is not the first time this has happened and it seems to be happening more frequently. It is the facility’s responsibility to report these river polluting instances (yea I know, kinda like the fox in the henhouse) to the state Department of Environmental Quality within 24 hours of the spew.

So we want to make sure that is happening, and that they are reporting accurately the duration of the pollution event. I will be stepping up my monitoring of the plant (night and day) especially after we have a big rain, as this is when these pollution problems seem to take place.

But we need your help also, so please, if you are driving by there, or boating, or fishing, and see anything other than clear water coming out of the Franklin sewage treatment pipe, please call me immediately at 562-5173.

Together we can make a difference on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is riverkeeper for the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, an environmentally conscious organization that focuses on keeping local waterways healthy. BNRP’s parent organization is The Waterkeeper Alliance. website for Turner, www.blackwaternottoway.com.