Happy National Water Quality Month!  The James River Association has worked to improve the health of the James River since 1976, when the James was considered one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Since then, the river’s health has increased remarkably, making the James River arguably one of the most improved rivers in the nation, and has been consistently rated as the healthiest major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay by the University of Maryland.

This month we are celebrating all of the work that has been done to improve the health of the James, and for National Water Quality month, we asked a few volunteers to share their motivation to volunteer and their connection to the James.

Here is Elaine Odell,  James River Watch and RiverRat volunteer in Richmond. 

What inspired you to volunteer to monitor water quality?

I grew up swimming, fishing and playing in the James River. As a kid, I kept hearing about DDT, Kepone and PCBs in the news. My parents would talk about how pesticides and chemicals had damaged the health of the river and the wildlife that depends on it. I have been fortunate to live long enough to see the comeback of birds and fish that were severely harmed by human-sourced contaminants in the second half of the last century. I believe the James River Association is vital to keeping water quality/environmental health top of mind for Virginians. By volunteering, I hope to support the JRA’s mission of keeping the James River healthy for future generations to enjoy.

What is your favorite thing about the river?

Paddle boarding on the James River and coming close to huge sturgeon jumping in September. Watching ospreys and bald eagles dive into the water and come up with a fish in their talons. Seeing great blue heron silently stalk a little fish along the shoreline. Paddling behind a beaver as it swims up the creek.

Are you involved with JRA in any other ways?

River Rat reporter for spotting and mapping sturgeon sightings and reporting trash/debris or environmental hazards in the river/along the river bank. 

Photo of Elaine Odell ‘s husband John who paddles with her. Picture made upstream of Watkins Landing, Powhatan County.

Our thanks go out to our partners, donors, members and volunteers across Virginia who have been working alongside us in our four decades of work.