Who We Are

The South River Science Team was established in 2001 to serve as a focal point for technical issues associated with mercury in the South River and downstream waterways. Our goal is to understand why mercury in South River fish has not decreased over time and identify potential solutions to improve the situation.

The team is a cooperative effort between the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; the Department of Health; the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; and representatives from academia, citizen groups, the Environmental Protection Agency and DuPont. We provide technical direction for mercury studies, investigations, and monitoring and ensure that there is effective communication provided to people who use the river.

Mission

Serve as a focal point for collecting and interpreting information to help mitigate legacy mercury contamination in the South River watershed.

Objectives

  • Collect, analyze, and interpret diverse environmental datasets.
  • Conduct outreach at local and state levels.
  • Communicate findings to scientific and lay audiences.
  • Design, implement, and monitor remedial, restoration, and risk reduction actions.

Historic Timeline

1929

DuPont acquires 153 acres in Waynesboro, Virginia as a manufacturing site for Rayon, the world’s first synthetic fiber. Mercury was used in Rayon production.

1929-1939

Despite the depression era, demand for Rayon increases and the DuPont plant expands.

1950

Rayon production continues, but mercury is no longer used.

1976

DuPont discovers mercury in soil on the plant site during construction activities and initiates studies to determine potential river impacts, marking the first collaborative effort between DuPont, regulatory agencies, academia and stakeholders.

1977

The Virginia Department of Health institutes a fish consumption ban from Waynesboro to Front Royal that includes the South River, South Fork Shenandoah River, and part of the Shenandoah River.

1980

The fish consumption ban is replaced by a consumption advisory.

1982

Results of an evaluation predict a natural decline in fish tissue mercury. Natural recovery is expected, and monitoring is selected as the remedy.

1984

DuPont funds a 100-year monitoring program for fish, water, soil, and sediment in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River.

1985

Various state agencies begin to work together to implement the monitoring program. Fish tissue data are collected to verify that the consumption advisories are appropriate.

1998

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality takes the lead in implementing the monitoring program.

1999

An evaluation of the monitoring program data indicates that fish tissue mercury levels are not declining as predicted.

2000

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and DuPont agree to the concept of a South River Science Team, a collaborative effort to evaluate the mercury situation.

2001

The South River Science Team holds our first meeting. Representatives from DuPont, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries participated in the inaugural meeting.

2002

The South River Science Team expands to include citizens’ groups, environmental groups and academic experts.

2005

DuPont, in coordination with the South River Science Team, begins a six-year ecological study of the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River.

2006

The South River Science Team opens an information center and a field office on Main Street in downtown Waynesboro.

2008

Evidence indicates that some of the mercury released long ago bound to soil particles in the river and then ended up being deposited on riverbanks along the South River. Today, when this riverbank soil erodes, mercury goes back into the river with it.

2009

The South River Science Team tests a remediation approach. An eroding riverbank in the City of Waynesboro (Pilot Bank) is stabilized to measure the changes, if any, that might occur when riverbank erosion is reduced or stopped.

2011-2012

Results from the Pilot Bank show that the stabilization approach is successful in controlling mercury releases to the river. As a result, riverbank stabilization is considered a feasible remediation option.

2013

DuPont, with input from a South River Science Team Task Team, submits a remediation proposal that addresses select eroding riverbanks that have been identified as the major potential continuing source of mercury to the rivers.

2014

DuPont collects a variety of samples to establish baseline conditions in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River, enabling the South River Science Team to compare conditions in the rivers before, during and after remediation.

2016

As part of its first phase of work, DuPont begins remediating and restoring additional riverbanks with elevated soil mercury levels.

2017

The Constitution Park riverbank remediation is complete.

2018

The remediation of riverbanks at City Shops and Allied Ready Mix is complete.

2019

The remediation of riverbanks near Shiloh Baptist Church is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

2020

North Park riverbanks are scheduled to be remediated in 2020.

1929
1929-1939
1950
1976
1977
1980
1982
1984
1985
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2005
2006
2008
2009
2011-2012
2013
2014
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
508 W. Main Street
Waynesboro, VA 22908
540-949-5361

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