Riverkeeper report: Styrogate

Published 10:08 am Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Riverkeeper collected six large VDOT bags of Styrofoam, along with a cooler and a Ziplock bag’s worth. His heart still sank at how much was out there. -- SUBMITTED | JEFF TURNER

The Riverkeeper collected six large VDOT bags of Styrofoam, along with a cooler and a Ziplock bag’s worth. His heart still sank at how much was out there. — SUBMITTED | JEFF TURNER

Moonpie and I spent the 11th through the 13th on the Nottoway in the Courtland area. The water was 8.30 on the USGS gauge at Sebrell and 64 degrees. Air temps ranged from 48 to 73, very nice weather indeed.

The first day I was out I kinda scouted around downriver from Courtland looking for evidence of the Styrofoam from the upriver dump-site. In case you have not seen it in the news, some numbskull dumped a bunch of ruble from the Beale’s meat packing demolition that was full of Styrofoam near the river above Vick’s Island. I did see some Styro downriver from Courtland, but it was not too bad….YET!

So, I called my dad and got him out there for a few hours of shad fishing. We caught a few, but it was far from fast and furious. As usual, we’d catch one every so often and then they would pick up only to disappear again. Still, we had a good time and it was a nice sunny day to be on the beautiful river as father and son.

The next day I started working my way upriver to see just what I was going to find. The further I went, the worst the Styrofoam got. I stopped at several small logjams and got what trash and Styro I could. I continued my journey upriver knowing eventually I would start seeing the really bad stuff. Sure enough at the 27.5 mile point, I rounded a turn in the river and my heart capsized. There in a half acre size cut in the river was the most unholy mess of Stryro I could imagine. Some places there it was a foot thick. Thick enough that Moonpie got out of the boat and walked around on it easily. So I got down to it and started the slow laborious job of getting the junk out of the river. The bigger stuff was not too bad to get, but sadly the small pea size pieces of Styro are really a problem.

See if you use a fine enough mesh to get that stuff, you also get a net full of biological stuff caught up in the mix. What you end up with is a heavy/wet slurry that quickly turns a trash bag into a 50-pound sack of yuk! I collected six bags and that was all the bags I had. I could not have gotten a lot more in the boat anyway, as the it was really getting low in the water from all that weight.

Oh, I forgot to mention I filled up every other container I had in the boat also, the live-well, a 5-gallon bucket and even a gallon Ziplock. That stuff was so heavy I had to call my dad to come to the boat landing, back the Riverkeeper truck down the boat ramp so we could unload the boat into the pick-up bed.

So this is a real mess on the river. It’s a shame we have people that are just so stupid and have so little regard for a precious resource so many of us use to relax or take our families out for a nice trip on the river and now these num-nuts have ruined it for all of us. I hope the County of Southampton and the commonwealth will go after these individuals that have dumped this burden, this travesty upon us and prosecute the guilty parties to the full extent that can be levied.

Anybody that flagrantly harms either of the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater like this should receive the full wrath of the public’s outrage and I pray receive the harshest penalty the law can bring to bear.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.