The name Goldmine Creek means an image of miners looking for wealth in the water. But for about 20 years the stream has been known for something less attractive: E. coli bacteria.
Funding is now available from the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District to help the residents of the creek catchment pump out, repair or replace their sewage treatment plants. Broken septic tanks and drainage fields can contribute to water pollution like E. coli when litter enters streams and their tributaries.
The watershed is bounded to the west by Goldmine Creek with ongoing bacterial problem Oakland Road, to the east by Chalk Level Road, and to the south by Route 33. The creek flows into the upper part of Lake Anna near Peach Grove Road.
Whether or not you are concerned about the health of the creek, it is a big problem for residents when their septic tanks fail. For those who decide to act now, the conservation district is offering 50 to 80 percent of the cost. The district is asking residents to apply for the program before work begins. New construction and commercial properties are not eligible.
“A septic tank should be pumped out every three to five years,” said Marie Abowd, the nature reserve’s agricultural assistant. “Some people may not think about it until [a problem]begins to become more visible. You may not even know where your tank is. “
The district has $ 62,000 available for Goldmine Creek residents and is accepting applications until the funds are used up. The funds come from the state Department of Environmental Quality, which it receives from federal grants under the Clean Water Act to help prevent pollution from point sources. All residents are entitled to 50 percent support; Households with limited incomes can receive an allowance of up to 80 percent.
The average cost of pumping out a septic tank is $ 350, Abowd said, citing DEQ numbers. Repairs are much more expensive, with an average cost of $ 5,000, and a new wastewater treatment plant can cost $ 8,000 to install.
The E. coli problem at Goldmine Creek is not as severe as it is in some other waters in the state, but it is significant, said David Evans, DEQ coordinator for nonpoint sources. The last time the agency collected samples from the stream was in 2007; five out of 10 samples exceeded the standard for the bacteria at this point.
“It can be managed and reduced with additional best management practices,” said Evans.
He said while septic tanks do contribute, DEQ modeling tends to show that agriculture is the largest source of contamination at Goldmine Creek. However, the agency did not conduct field research to support the model. The Conservation District also has programs that deal with agriculture, such as:
You can find help at tjswcd. org or call 434-975-0224.