Virginia is launching a study of toxic chemicals in the James River. Scientists believe the chemicals, called PCBs, can cause cancer. People can be exposed by eating tainted fish.PCBs are the classic legacy pollutant. No longer manufactured, nor put into new products in the US, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are the classic legacy toxic pollutant. PCBs are extremely persistent in the environment, degrading only very slowly with the passage of time. They are strongly bound to sediment, and often accumulate there in high concentrations near sources of pollution, and remain in those sites indefinitely. Organisms exposed to PCB accumulate them to very high levels. Many fish advisories around the country are based on high levels of PCBs in fish.
"We want to let the public know what we know about PCBs in the James River," said Bill Hayden, a spokesman Department of Environmental Quality. "We are now at the point where we are ready to begin the extended process for identifying the problem and cleaning it up."
The study will concentrate on the tidal James from the Mayo Bridge in downtown Richmond to the Charles City County/Surry County area. It will begin with two public meetings Tuesday in Richmond. Biologists have found PCBs in James River fish from just below the Blue Ridge Parkway to Hampton Roads...
PCBs were used extensively in high powered electrical transformers, and exploding transformers were a common source of much of the PCB found near cities. In the Hudson River, a major PCB producer contaminated the river so badly that 40 miles of river bottom is to be dredged. Some of that work is done, and some is ongoing.
PCBs have been studied in most Chesapeake tributaries including the James before; I've been involved in one of them. It sounds like this will be a more extensive study, but I do wonder what the ultimate goal will be? Will the James be subjected to a Hudson-like clean up? I would hope it's not that bad.