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Is Your Roof Ready for Extreme Weather?

Posted on November 13, 2015 by | Comments Off

ClimateChangeRoofThe maxim, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” is no longer merely ironic. Those frustrated by government, industry and diplomacy in addressing the root causes of climate change may feel a genuine sense of urgency to do something about the weather themselves.

Extreme weather events, including heat waves, high winds and heavy downpours, have increased in frequency and become more widespread as a result of global warming,  according to a U.S. government report entitled “Climate Change Impacts in the United States.”  Incidentally, extreme weather is also the leading cause of roof failure.

While it may seem like little will be done to arrest the extreme weather trend, at least one community is doing something constructive in response. Dade County, Florida—which has endured the effects of a series of catastrophic hurricanes over the last generation—has developed codes for roofing installation that are saving property and lives.

As events like Superstorm Sandy and the recent Hurricane Joaquin threaten the Eastern Seaboard and the Northeast, it’s wise to take a hint from a state like Florida, where high winds and hurricanes are nothing new, when preparing for a roof installation or inspecting the strength of your current roof.

Florida Statute 553.88 is pretty dry reading, so let’s summarize the key points:

  • Inspect connections between wall frames and roof framing members, and if not present, install approved connectors at spacing intervals recommended to withstand the maximum uplift possible for your roof in your area.
  • Existing roofing should be stripped down to the sheathing so that it can be inspected for appropriateness of type, decay and adherence to more stringent fastening requirements.
  • Gaps between spaced sheathing boards should be filled with sound material of the same thickness, or replaced with ½-in. (min.) plywood or OSB panels. Metal drip edges should be applied to sheathing edges along rakes and eaves with screws spaced no more than 12 in. apart.
  • Sheathing panels should be fastened with 8d galvanized ring-shank nails 2-1/2 in. long, spaced no more than 6 in. OC (on-center) along edges and no more than 12 in. OC within panel interior areas. Weather-proof screws are even better than nails for sheathing.
  • Roofing systems should have a secondary water barrier covering all sheathing joints with 4-in. wide self-adhering bituminous tape, followed by covering with an approved self-adhering bituminous base sheet.
  • In high-wind areas, each shingle should be fastened with six galvanized roofing nails long enough to penetrate through sheathing at least ½-in.
  • All shingle butts should be firmly bonded to the course below with self-sealing adhesive or manually-applied roof cement.

The Climate Change Impacts report predicts that extreme weather events will continue to increase in frequency and intensity in coming years and spread to areas where they have not previously occurred. Wherever you live, Dade County’s requirements may be smart recommendations for your own home.

If you’re unsure of your own roof’s strength and durability, have it inspected. Choose a contractor or installer who offers a strong warranty and stands by their work (and is licensed and insured, of course), and look for someone backed by a well-known and respected brand in your area. If you discover that your roof is weak, remember that a replacement roof could literally protect the rest of your house in the event of an extreme weather event.

Roofing expert Michael Chotiner has years of hands-on experience as a general construction contractor and cabinet maker and writes for  The Home Depot

Posted in: Household tips

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Suffolk Farm Days

Posted on November 10, 2015 by | Comments Off

Suffolk_LacieAbout 1,200 second-grade students from Suffolk Public Schools recently got some hands-on experience at a farm.

Farm Days is a two-day hands-on farm experience that takes place at the Virginia Tech Research Extension Farm on Hare Road. “It’s a very good experience for the kids,” said Julie Moyer, science instructional specialist for the school system. “It’s their only field trip. The students look forward to it every year.”

The event has been held annually for 12 years and features several learning stations for children to rotate through. Some of the topics covered by the stations were the water cycle, pollution prevention, recycling, and animal care.

The City of Suffolk Public Works Engineering Department attended the event to help educate the children about the effects of litter and other pollutants on our waterways and wildlife. “The kids were great listeners and very compassionate when they were shown pictures of harmed wildlife,” remarked Wayne Jones, City of Suffolk Litter Control Coordinator, “one student said it made him feel mad that people litter and hurt the animals”. At Wayne’s station, the kids talked through the top 5 litter items found around the world including cigarette butts, food wrappers, bottle caps, plastic bottles, and drink straws. Afterwards the students put their skills to the test with a recycling knowledge game. The students were asked to distinguish between common items to figure out which of the items could be recycled. “It was very reassuring to hear so many of these children know what to and not to recycle” comments Wayne Jones.

The next station ran by Alacia Nixson, City of Suffolk Environmental Technician, focused on how pollutants affect our waterways. Using an Enviroscape, the students watched how our actions affect the Chesapeake Bay. An Enviroscape is a fun portable model that helps to visualize and better understand the sources and prevention of water pollution. Through this hands-on playful interaction the children discussed practical ways to prevent pollution at the source. 

“We were able to reach over 1,000 kids in two days!” says Kathy Russell, education coordinator for TFC recycling. “A key component to changing behaviors is teaching citizens, while they’re young, how to be environmentally responsible”.

Blog post contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

Posted in: Community events, Don't litter!, Gardening, Going Green, Keeping storm drains free, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Handle Your Fallen Leaves with Care

Posted on November 6, 2015 by | Comments Off

Leaf CleanupFall is a great season! But there is the small issue of those pesky leaves that are swirling through the air all across Hampton Roads. They may be beautiful but boy do they make a mess! For many, fall leaf cleanup is a big headache, but it doesn’t need to be. Here’s your cheat sheet for making fall leaf cleanup a breeze. 

Sometimes the easiest way to handle fallen leaves is to not handle them at all! Unless leaves are near a storm drain, ditch or waterway, there are a lot of benefits to letting the leaves “fall where they may.” A leafy carpet is an important habitat and food source for wildlife including turtles, frogs, lizards and many insects. This is especially true during the long, harsh winter months. Leaves will also naturally decay and return nutrients (aka fertilizers) to your soil. No cost, labor-free fertilizer? I’ll take it! But please be mindful that leaves, like other yard waste, can be harmful to local waterways if they find their way into storm drains or ditches. Leaves that clump together in storm drains and ditches can lead to street flooding and also send pollution into local waterways. 

2013 Fall Leaves BlogCan’t deal with a leafy mess? That’s OK, we know some people feel strongly about having a tidy, manicured yard – I’m married to one myself! But even tidy landscapers can be eco-friendly with their leaf clean-up. Mulch mowing or composting the leaves is the greenest way to dispose of leaves. Mulch mowing shreds the leaves into small pieces that are hardly noticeable and decay quickly and naturally improve the quality of your yard. Another option is to rake the leaves into a compost bin. Not only does composting keep leaves out of the landfill, it also gives back to you directly in the form of  free organic fertilizers that are great for your lawn, garden and easy on local waterways. If you’re not into compost, that’s OK too. Your local city or county is ready to help you responsibly dispose of those messy leaves. Leaf collection requirements may be different depending on where you live in Hampton Roads. Many areas require leaves to be bagged – sometimes in special compostable bags. Other areas use suction (yes – a giant vacuum cleaner!) to collect the leaves so bagging is not allowed. Connect with your city or county below to learn more.




Isle of Wight

James City County

Newport News




Southampton County


Virginia Beach


York County

Posted in: Beautification, Gardening, Keeping storm drains free, Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Happy Anniversary to Sewage Treatment!

Posted on November 5, 2015 by | Comments Off

People normally don’t celebrate wastewater treatment.  I would argue that it should be celebrated every day, after all, the ability to get clean water piped into our homes and dirty water piped out of them is what separates us from third world countries.  Turn on the tap and voila!  Clean water.  Flush the toilet and poof!  Dirty water goes away.  Amazing.  In fact, people are often so overcome by this amazingness that they don’t stop to think about what happens to make all that dirty water “go away”. 

Raw sewage ran in open ditches as children played in Portsmouth's Simonsdale neighborhood in 1944, documenting the need for construction of a sanitary sewer system.

Raw sewage ran in open ditches as children played in Portsmouth’s Simonsdale neighborhood in 1944, documenting the need for construction of a sanitary sewer system.

It hasn’t always been so amazing.  The plumbing in many homes in Hampton Roads used to lead directly to local waterways.  As more people moved to the area, more sewage poured into our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.  By the mid-1920s, it was estimated that about 25 million gallons of raw sewage was poured into local waters daily.  Sewage pollution was a big problem.  More than 10,000 acres of oyster beds were condemned and people were worried about potential typhoid and cholera outbreaks.  I know, it seems crazy because it WAS crazy.  Back then, a day out on the water was essentially a day spent in the sewer.

Water is everywhere in Hampton Roads.  If you grew up around here like me, it’s easy to forget that underwater tunnels are not a required part of the morning commute for a lot of people.  But that’s Hampton Roads and that’s why we love it (I love the water, not the tunnels), and that’s why a regional solution was needed for sewage pollution.  Sewage literally flowed across city and county lines, lines that were frequently changing at that time, and everyone needed clean water.  And that’s why, on November 5, 1940, citizens voted for the creation of HRSD as a regional solution to the sewage pollution problem.  Together with the local counties and cities, HRSD began to build infrastructure to collect and transport sewage to treatment plants so that only cleaned water was sent out into waterways.

HRSD's Atlantic Treatment Plant in Virginia Beach.

HRSD’s Atlantic Treatment Plant in Virginia Beach.

Within a decade, 3 HRSD wastewater treatment plants were up and running.  Over 35 million gallons of wastewater was being treated daily, with less than a million untreated gallons daily going into local waters.  And guess what…previously condemned oyster beds were being reopened for harvest!  By the end of the 1950s, over 50 million gallons of wastewater was treated daily.  Fast forward to today, 75 years later, and HRSD continues the legacy by operating 13 treatment plants that can treat up to 249 million gallons of wastewater every day for 17 cities and counties in Coastal Virginia.  With the help of these cities and counties, more than 5,800 miles of pipelines keep untreated sewage out of our waterways and headed to a HRSD wastewater treatment plant.  Whew.  How’s that for making dirty water “go away”?

So, happy 75th anniversary to HRSD!  Give thanks for the lack of water-borne diseases, carefree days at the beach, or your love of locally harvested oysters.  Celebrate by learning about the public water systems in Hampton Roads, reading more about HRSD’s history, or watching a video about the wastewater treatment process.  Check out data from a HRSD pipeline and spread the word about all this amazingness that happens under your feet.  And of course you can be part of the HRSD legacy by helping keep sewage in its place.  Know what to flush and please don’t treat your drains like trash cans because there is nothing amazing about clogged pipes and sewage spills.  We’ve come a long way in 75 years.  Hug your toilet, take in that breathtaking waterfront scenery, and let’s all make sure that future generations inherit clean waterways.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, Household tips, Waterways

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High School Students Get Crafty with Recycling to Help the Homeless

Posted on November 2, 2015 by | Comments Off

bag prepThe Family, Career, Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) at Nansemond River High School are extremely busy this fall producing sleeping mats for the homeless. Under the guidance of their teacher Sally Karadeema, this creative group of students has been busy turning used plastic bags into Plarn. “Plarn” is just like yarn except it is made from plastic bags cut in to strips, tied together and rolled into a ball….just like a ball of yarn. In addition, the group has been learning a new craft, crocheting. By combining these new skills, the FCCLA members plan to turn their “Plarn” into beautiful mats for the homeless. Although the group is still deciding which homeless organization to donate to, their current focus is to collect plastic bags, make Plarn and perfect the skills to produce the mats. 

folding and cutting bagsFCCLA Advisor Ms. Karadeema started the project to help teach her students resource management, an important skill which will serve them well in their futures. Ms. Karadeema says “making mats for the homeless was also a great way to teach about recycling, learn a new craft and help out some folks in the process. I am extremely happy with how well the group has applied themselves; they have adopted a professional approach, organizing bag collection and working together to produce the balls of Plarn. I am very excited to see the mats take shape.” To help the project along, Ms. Karadeema has reached out to “Keep Suffolk Beautiful” who is hosting a plastic bag recycling drive at the two main libraries on November 14 in celebration of America Recycles Day. The spokesperson for Keep Suffolk Beautiful says, “This young group of leaders are more than welcome to all the plastic bags they need and we are very happy to see them being recycled locally and put to good use. We just hope the public will support us and the group by bringing us their unwanted bags.” 

IMG_4780The plastic bag recycling drive will be held from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, November 14 at both the Morgan Memorial and North Suffolk Libraries. In addition, you can also bring old cell phones, ink cartridges and household batteries to be recycled. There will also be information about recycling, giveaways and story time for young children. For more information about the plastic bag recycling drive, please contact the City of Suffolk’s Litter Control Office at 514 7604 or

Blog post contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

Posted in: Community events, Going Green, plastic bags, Reduce reuse and recycle

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