South River Science Team
The need for stakeholder outreach and engagement is increasingly more important and valuable the larger a project becomes. DuPont recognized this value and voluntarily established the South River Science Team along with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The Science Team includes a group of representatives from DuPont, local, state and federal governments, the larger academic community in Virginia and local environmental groups.
The goal of the Science Team has been to determine, in a collaborative and open manner, why mercury in South River and South Fork Shenandoah River fish has not decreased over time and to figure out what might be done to improve the situation. The Science Team charter is available here.
The team's work has been extensive and includes over 100 research publications, reports, referenced articles, theses and dissertations from various team members. Based on this work, the Science Team has determined that four mechanisms are operating in concert to keep mercury in fish elevated:
- Mercury deposited long ago in riverbank soil continues to enter the river through erosion;
- Legacy mercury in deeper riverbed sediments continues to supply the overlying surface water with mercury;
- A small amount of mercury continues to be released from the former manufacturing facility; and
- Natural recovery processes in the South River are ineffective at bringing new, clean sediment into the system and burying the contamination.
Today the Science Team continues to focus on solving the environmental challenges associated with the legacy mercury situation. The team stresses the importance of the watershed to the local community and the importance of approaching the problem as a “watershed” issue rather than simply a “South River” issue. The team designs and implements pilot-scale remedial actions and tests to determine whether these actions are capable of interrupting, eliminating or reducing mercury entering the South River.