Currently, SERCAP’s Regional Program is assisting the Brown Grove Preservation Group with a water sampling project near the Town of Ashland in Hanover County, Virginia. Brown Grove, a primarily African American community, consists of a total of 100 households located on both sides of Exit 89 of I-95 in eastern Virginia. The area’s proximity to Richmond and the I-95 corridor has made it an attractive site for commercial and industrial development, frequently over the objections of the community’s residents. Currently, there is a truck stop, a concrete plant, an industrial waste treatment facility, and an active landfill all located within the boundaries of the Brown Grove community.
In December 2020, a representative from the community contacted SERCAP because a major grocery chain distribution center had received preliminary approval to be sited within the community, creating concerns about impacts to the environment and the community’s groundwater. Specifically, a significant portion of the nearby wetlands will be eliminated if the project is officially green-lit. Additionally, approximately 75% of the households in Brown Grove get their drinking water from shallow, bored wells, and many of the residents are concerned that the cumulative effect of these industrial uses are negatively impacting the quality of the ground water. The Brown Grove Preservation Group began searching for help to sample and analyze some of the area wells, in order to secure concrete results/evidence to bring before the state’s Water Control Board at a hearing on February 26, 2021, considering the distribution center’s final approval.
SERCAP’s Technical Assistance Providers (TAPs) in Virginia, mobilized to collect nearly 70 varying types of water samples from 8 impacted households, and submitted the water sample to a Richmond-area environmental lab for analysis, in time to provide results to the group before the February 26th meeting. Though the State Water Control Board voted four (4) to three (3) in favor of allowing the project to proceed, they did suggest that the grocery chain develop a method for working with residents of the community to get them connected to public water. In the meantime, SERCAP will continue to provide sampling assistance to the remainder of the homes in the community, and will maintain communication with the community in preparation for providing additional assistance as needed.
In the long-term, the positive impact of SERCAP’s assistance to communities like Brown Grove for similar projects, is the improved Quality of Life for the community and their residents. Providing assistance to communities at no cost to them, and supporting communities with creative and sustainable solutions to water, wastewater, and community development challenges, stretches available resources, and simultaneously allows communities to improve both their Environmental Health and Economic Self-sufficiency. In this care, SERCAP’s assistance especially impacts the Environmental Health of the community by assisting the community with responsible development practices, and ensuring that all current and future community development projects have minimal negative environmental impact. SERCAP’s assistance with this kind of project can also provide a way forward for responsible and ethical community development.
*Funding for SERCAP’s Regional Department is provided by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Community Services’ (OCS) Grant, USDA RD’s Technitrain Program, the Drinking Water Compliance Grant through the EPA, and the EPA Private Well Grant. Additionally, all of SERCAP’s programs and services in Virginia are leveraged by a Budget Appropriation from the Virginia General Assembly, which is administered by the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD).