Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Northern Virginia Environmental Issues

The climate of the Northern Virginia became much as we know it today 5,000 years ago. Prehistoric peoples became less nomadic, settling in larger camps near rivers and streams. Food was abundant and diverse. The natives called the Potomac River above Great Falls the "river of geese”.

With the coming of modern civilization also came people. The population of Virginia reached one million in 1830. Eighty years later the population reached two million. Within the next thirty five years the population of Virginia reached three million. It took only fifteen more years to reach four million in 1960. Since then, growth has accelerated. By 1990, the population stood at six million and by 2010 was eight million. People brought pollution.

The Potomac River was particularly hard hit. With increased mining and agriculture upstream and increased urban sewage and runoff downstream, the Potomac River was slowly poisoned. It is said that President Lincoln used to escape to the outskirts of Washington on hot summer nights to escape the river’s stench. In 1965, after centuries of contamination by raw sewage and industrial pollution, President Lyndon B. Johnson called the Potomac River a "national disgrace." President Johnson set in motion a long-term effort to reduce sewage pollution and restore the health of the Potomac. Since the mid-1960s, there have been large-scale improvements at wastewater treatment plants, and the Potomac is now clean enough to support numerous bald eagles and support smallmouth and largemouth bass.

The threat to Northern Virginia’s environment is far from over however.

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