Primary Pollutants


There are 3 primary pollutants in the streams of Roanoke City. Click through each to learn more.
Bacteria comes from numerous sources such as pet waste, wildlife, livestock, failing septic systems or straight pipes, sanitary sewer overflows and leaking sewer pipes.

When it rains, waste left on the ground from dogs, cats, horses, ducks, and other pets can pollute our water by introducing bacteria and parasites.

One easy thing that we can all do that doesn't cost any money is pick up our pet's waste to keep bacteria from being washed into the stormdrain and then into the nearest creek untreated.

11 Impaired stream
Picking Up After Pets

Here are some helpful tips for reducing bacteria in our waters:


Have a dog?

  • Scoop the poop, bag it, and put it in the trash. The City of Roanoke is adding more Mutt Mitt Stations around parks and greenways to make it easier to pick up after your pet. Find a Mutt Mitt Station near you! 
  • Pick up poo from your yard at least once a week.

Have a Septic Tank?


6 Impaired Streams

Yes, Soil is a Pollutant!

When bare soil is exposed to the elements, it easily erodes because there is no vegetation or other cover to protect it from the rain and wind. Eroded topsoil can then be carried into rivers, streams, and lakes causing cloudy, muddy water. 

  • Sediment can block sunlight for aquatic plants,
  • Clog the gills of fish and other aquatic organisms.
  • Reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water,
  • Contain nutrients that cause excessive plant and algae growth.
  • Some bacteria and pollutants, like PCBs, cling to sediment and further pollute our waters.
Sediment Into Drain

To keep sediment out of streams:

Use a straw bale, filter sock, or rags around stormdrain inlets to capture sediment and other pollutants from runoff producing activities like pressure washing and lawn watering.
Cover exposed dirt mounds
when landscaping or remodeling so that wind and rain doesn't carry it into nearby streams.
Stormdrain Cover

What are PCBs?

PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyl which are man-made chemicals that were commonly used worldwide until their manufacture, distribution and use was banned in 1979.

What are PCBs used for?

They were used in capacitors, transformers, electrical equipment, oils in motors and hydraulic systems, insulation materials, plasticizers, inks, adhesives, pesticide extenders, paints, caulking, carbonless copy paper, and many building materials. 
Click for more details about PCB uses.


PCBS Products

How do PCBs get into our waters?

  • PCBs can be released into the environment due to spills and leaks from equipment, improper disposal and storage, illegal or improper dumping of wastes containing PCBs, or burning wastes containing PCBs. 
PCBs are currently found in the air, water and soil from past releases. PCBs are also still produced as an industrial byproduct in low concentrations during the production of some solvents, paints, inks, and plastics.

PCBs cycle through the air, soil and water indefinitely.
Often attached to sediment particles where they can be washed into local waterways and remain at the bottom of water bodies. They also accumulate in plant and animal tissue.



3 Streams Impaired for PCBs

Are PCBs dangerous?

PCBs were banned as a pollutant because of health considerations.

The concentrations in our streams do not make it unsafe to swim or recreate in them. 
In general, PCBs become hazardous to human health when consumed or inhaled in large amounts.  
Read more about PCBs and health.
Man and Son with Fish

What about fish consumption?

One of the problems with PCBs is that they accumulate in the fat cells of animals and move up the food chain. This means animals at the top of the food chain have higher levels of PCBs.
Virginia Department of Health has issued fish consumption advisories for  several sections of the Roanoke River and affected tributaries since 1988. 
Check out the current list.
PCBS Label
Although banned in 1979, PCBs are incredibly slow to break down due to their chemical stability. Once PCBs enter the environment it can be very difficult and costly to remove them.

The City is working on the best ways to track down local sources and remove them from our waterways.

Still have questions about PCBs?

Learn more about PCBs here.