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Preparing for Tropical Storm Arthur

Posted on July 2, 2014 by | Comments Off

Mailbox in Flood WatersTropical Storm Arthur may brush up against Hampton Roads Thursday night, but we are all hoping it pushes out in time to keep the rain off our Independence Day celebrations! Now is the time to take action to help protect your property and in some cases your community from the damaging effects of coastal/urban flooding and high winds. As the storm approaches, check in with Ready Hampton Roads for storm updates and get more emergency information from your local emergency office.

  • Tidy up the Yard – Pick up any loose items in your yard that might fly away in a storm. This will protect your property from damage while also keeping debris from clogging storm drains or becoming litter in a local waterway.
  • Clean Ditches and Drains – Anything used to drain water from your property should be inspected and cleaned. Gutters, ditches, swales, or drains clogged with weeds, yard debris or dirt will contribute to flooding. Anything you can do to assist stormwater drainage will help protect your property and neighborhood from flooding.
  • Shelter Your Waste Containers – If possible, secure your trash/recycling containers inside a garage or shed to prevent waste from blowing out into the neighborhood. If you are unable to find an indoor storage space for the containers, try weighing down the bottom by placing something heavy (like bricks) inside the container and securing the top with a bungee cord or duct tape.
  • Prevent Chemical Spills - If your garage always floods, make sure any automotive fluids, lawn and garden chemicals, pesticides and other household hazardous waste are kept off the ground and in a secure location. This will prevent unnecessary chemical spills into stormwater.
  • Choose Higher Ground – If you live below sea level and see flooded streets with even the smallest storms (I’m looking at you, Norfolk and Poquoson!), consider moving to higher ground. Move your vehicles to a nearby public parking lot that does not flood and move household items off the floor or onto a second floor.
  • Trim Branches – Tree branches should never be allowed to scrape against your roof or power lines. The power company will maintain limbs around power lines, but it’s your responsibility to keep branches from harming your home.

Stay safe, Hampton Roads!

Posted in: Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Sewer Lateral Woes Part II: A Tree-Hugger’s Dilemma

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I love trees.  But I don’t love them in my sewer.  If you read Sewer Lateral Woes, Part I, you know I’ve been dealing with a root-infested sewer lateral.  An oak tree was planted right next to the pipe that connects my home’s plumbing to the city-owned sewer pipeline, and over the years its roots made their way into the pipe, slowly blocking the wastewater leaving our home.  There’s nothing like sewage backing up into your bathtub to get your attention, trust me.   A cracked sewer lateral also means water can get into the sewer system, which can lead to sewer overflows that pollute the environment.  Any kind of sewage spill, whether in a tub or a local river, is bad news. 

After some careful digging we found the sewer lateral.

In Part I I left you with my dilemma:  to cut or not to cut down the tree?  If I removed it, it could never pose a threat to my sewer lateral again, but being the tree-hugging type I really wanted to avoid this if I could.  There was a Mallard duck incubating eggs close to the tree so I took a few weeks to think about it, but once the ducklings hatched and took off with mama down to the water it was time for action.  Unfortunately, the mama duck was not interested in my blog and snuck her babies off before I could get a photo of them (sorry).

I consulted with several professionals before ultimately deciding that both our sewer lateral and the tree could be saved!  PVC pipe, which my lateral is made out of, does not typically have issues with tree roots.  It seemed more likely that an improper installation had compromised a pipe joint, allowing the tree roots to get in.  Roots seek out water and nutrients, and since sewer laterals have plenty of both, even a tiny crack will attract small hair-like roots into the pipe.  We decided to replace the broken section of pipe and leave the tree alone.  Win for Mr. Tree.  In just a few short hours the broken section of pipe was located and replaced.  Take a look at the photos from the repair (click the photos to enlarge), that was one busted lateral!

The damaged section of pipe was removed – look at the size of that root going right through it!

Since the broken section was small, we don’t think our digging did any major harm to the tree.  Disturbing too many roots could kill it, but we are optimistic that both sewer and tree are in the best of health.  If you suspect roots in your sewer lateral, make sure to get a professional opinion.  Unfortunately, sometimes trees do need to be removed because of future damage they can cause or the damage that will be done to the tree during the sewer repair.

But that’s not all the good news I have to share!  I am happy to report that shortly after the repair was complete, ANOTHER mama duck happily incubated her eggs right under the oak tree.  It seems I am not the only one who is glad the tree stayed.

Good as new – our repaired sewer lateral.  This should keep those roots out.

HRSD’s SLIP pilot project is helping homeowners in Hampton Roads identify and repair defective laterals at no cost, with repairs currently underway in the Campostella neighborhood in Norfolk.   Check out these videos of water entering a lateral and roots entering a lateral  and see for yourself what root intrusion means to your sewer and how rain and groundwater can enter the sewer system and cause overflows.  Even if you are not in a SLIP pilot neighborhood, you can still help prevent sewer overflows by keeping your lateral in mind when you plan your landscaping.  Plant trees and shrubs away from your sewer lateral and chose types with less invasive root systems.  And of course, never treat your toilet or any household drain as a trashcan.  Knowing what to flush will keep our pipelines flowing…and your bathtub sewage-free.

Posted in: Gardening, Household tips, Lawn and landscape, Outdoor tips, Uncategorized, Waterways

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Bacteria at the Beach

Posted on June 30, 2014 by | Comments Off

at-the-beach-1445396-1-mThe results are in! Did your favorite beach come out on top? The National Resources Defense Council just released their 24th annual “Testing the Waters” report.  This report presents water quality at beaches along the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.  Thankfully, some of our Virginia and North Carolina beaches are shining stars for water quality.  But that’s not always the case. 

Have you ever heard about a section of beach being closed off due to high bacteria levels? It happens, even here in beautiful Hampton Roads. High bacteria in our waterways can be attributed to stormwater pollution (like dog poop left on the ground!) and untreated sewage spills and overflows. If you swim in water that has high bacteria levels you could get the stomach flu, pink eye, dysentery, hepatitis or other serious medical problems. Major gross out! 

So how can we make sure our local waterways stay healthy? askHRGreen is full of tips! Even if you don’t live on the water, your actions still directly affect the health of our waterways. So here are a few tips to keep you from being part of the problem:

  • Scoop the Poop: Never leave dog waste on the ground, even in your own back yard.  Scoop it, bag it, trash it!
  • Plant More Plants:  It’s better to have more plants than hard surfaces in your yard to allow stormwater to be absorbed and filtered into the ground.  Plants have a great way of removing pollutants from water before it reaches our waterways
  • Keep Fats, Oils, & Grease Out of the Drain: When poured down the drain, fats, oils and grease (FOG) build up on pipe walls, restricting the flow of wastewater exiting our home’s plumbing and, over time, causing sewer overflows into our homes or onto our streets, down storm drains, and into local waterways.  Instead, pour FOG into a container, cover, freeze, and trash it on garbage day.


Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Fats, oils and grease disposal, Uncategorized

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Lucky Locals Get New and Improved Recycling Program

Posted on June 26, 2014 by | Comments Off

RMTL-logo-colorWhat could be better than finding out your local recycling program is accepting MORE items in the curbside recycling container? Ok, maybe winning the lottery would be better – but it’s still really exciting news for Hampton Roads!

Starting Monday, June 30th, residents of James City County, Poquoson, Williamsburg and York County will kick off a brand new recycling contract with County Waste. Under this new contract, residents will be able to recycle a wide variety of plastic household waste in addition to the usual items we can all recycle like paper, aluminum/tin, glass and plastics #1 and #2 with a neck or a spout. Changes like this highlight the need for residents to know what items are accepted in their specific city or county. Not all recycling programs operate the same way – yes, we know that’s confusing but that’s why you have us! Visit the askHRgreen recycling at home page for the link to your locality’s do’s and don’ts list. For those lucky residents under the County Waste contract, recyclable items now include the following plastic items:

  • Bottles and jugs
  • Butter tubs
  • Yogurt cups
  • Lunch meat containers
  • Frozen food trays
  • Solo beverage cups
  • Takeout drink cups
  • Clamshell containers (like those used for your favorite produce or bakery item)
  • Flower pots
  • Buckets

And while this news has everyone at askHRgreen smiling, I must admit I’m also a little bummed out. You see, I don’t live in one of the communities served by the new recycling contract. And I really, really wish I did so I could put more plastic waste in MY recycling container! I’m also pretty jealous that these lucky locals will no longer need to crane their necks or strain their eyes checking for that little recycling number on the bottom of plastic items. For them, if the item is plastic and on the above list – it’s accepted. What a luxury!

For more information about the new recycling contract, check out this great informational video from VPPSA, the Virginia Peninsulas Public Service Authority. Happy recycling!

Posted in: Household tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Norfolk Volunteers Dedicated to a Clean Community

Posted on June 24, 2014 by | Comments Off

askHRgreen Great American Cleanup 2014The Norfolk community really gave it their all for the Great American Cleanup this year! To celebrate the season of spring cleaning and greening in communities across America, the City of Norfolk and Keep Norfolk Beautiful hosted and organized a variety of events from March to June. Activities included neighborhood and park cleanups like those in Ingleside and Villa Heights, education and outreach during Lafayette RiverFest, wetland grass planting in Colley Bay, cigarette litter prevention outreach, several recycling events, many waterway cleanups and lots of beautification through planting trees and flowers or sprucing up existing gardens. Phew, I’m exhausted after just listing all those activities! The Norfolk community truly shows a dedication to making their city a great place to live. Clean Community Coordinator, Lisa Renée Jennings, shared with askHRgreen the results of their hard work during the Great American Cleanup:

  • There were 70 individual events in Norfolk for the Great American Cleanup
  • Over 2,500 volunteers came out and made the events successful
  • 49,610 pounds of litter and debris were removed from neighborhoods and waterways
  • Over 3,000 plants were added to the community including the new wetland grasses in Colley Bay
  • Over 400 gallons of household hazardous waste chemicals were safely collected and disposed of properly

Great job, Norfolk! You should all be proud of your efforts to Keep Norfolk Beautiful!

Volunteers cleanup in Ocean View
Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful


Volunteers cleanup in Ocean View
Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful


USFF volunteers cleaned up 23rd Street
Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful


Improvements to the Eco Garden
Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful


Ladies of Distinction cleanup the Hague River
Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful


The Eastern Stars cleanup Virginia Beach Blvd
Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful


Volunteers plant wetland grasses in Colley Bay
Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful


















































Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Don't litter!, Gardening, Waterways

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