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River bacteria remain mystery page 2
State and local government officials, along with residents, gather at Fairview Beach to try to figure out what's causing water contamination

Date published: 9/21/2012

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Beckley suggested getting water samples at both ends of the drainpipe. If the water is bacteria-free at the top of the pipe but contaminated at the bottom, there might be an illegal sewage connection or some leakage from a drain field in between, he said.

If water levels at the top and bottom of the pipe are different, it would be worth running a camera through the pipe to see what's there, Beckley said.

REPAIR WITH A BEER CAN

Those at the meeting said no one really knows what shape the underground pipes are in at Fairview Beach, much less how many drain fields and septic systems are in place. Or, how they've been repaired and maintained over the years.

"There's just so much that got stuffed in there over the years," said Jerry Shrewsbury, who lives in the trailer park owned by Fairview B LLC, a Northern Virginia partnership. "God only knows what's in the ground."

Shrewsbury does some maintenance for the trailer park. He's dug up pipes from mobile homes to septic tanks and has found fixes that weren't exactly up to code.

"One time, I found a repair made with a beer can," he said.

Resident Harrover mentioned similar jury-rigging. When the village established its own sanitation district--before the King George Service Authority came about--people dug their own ditch from the main line to their homes and connected to the pipe.

She's certain that plenty of septic tanks and drain fields were left as they were. By law, they're supposed to be drained, filled with sand and covered with lime, said Tommy Thompson, the Rappahannock Area Health District's environmental health supervisor.

Harrover and others wondered if bacteria that remained in those tanks, and even in the sand from "back in the day," when Shrewsbury said houses openly discharged waste into the water, might get stirred up when the weather gets bad.

Because this year, four of five times the bacteria levels at Fairview Beach exceeded state numbers, there had been a severe storm and high winds, Thompson said.

His agency tests the water at Fairview Beach weekly from May to September.

Beckley doubted that bacteria could still be present in septic tanks from the 1970s and '80s, given that the bacteria wouldn't have had any waste to feed it.


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