UVa’s UTS: Polluting Meadow Creek?

If there’s any truth to an internal University Transit Service e-mail, UVa is polluting Meadow Creek, and has been knowingly doing so for years. The author of the e-mail, a fourth year student (whose name I have kept anonymous), writes that the Millmont facility’s lot “drains directly into the little creek behind Bodo’s,” and that the drainage is “about half rainwater and half toxic crap like diesel, oil, and [transmission] fluid.” He goes on to write that “the problem is especially bad when we spill a hundred gallons of diesel and it washes down the drain, which has happened.” The good news is that, according to the author, UVa has begun a semester-long construction project intended to reduce the spillage and runoff. Keep reading for the text of the e-mail. 11/11 Update: Jason Amirhadji has a story in today’s Cavalier Daily that provides more information and clarifies a few points.


Date: Sun Nov 9, 2003

Subject: b: The Bus Lot

If you’ve been to the UTS bus lot in the past couple days, you’ve noticed the nice orange construction barrels, hay bales, and rock piles right in the middle of the lane that we drive buses down.  These are part of an environmental construction project that will be going on for pretty much the rest of the semester.  I think the basic idea was that since UTS is screwed already, why not try to make things a little bit worse? 

Anyway, our lot drains directly into the little creek behind Bodo’s, and since that drainage is about half rainwater and half toxic crap like diesel, oil, and tranny fluid, we pollute that creek worse than dining hall food pollutes your tummy.  The problem is especially bad when we spill a hundred gallons of diesel and it washes down the drain, which has happened.  So we’re being forced to take “measures” to protect the “environment.” 

These measures include the installation of “awnings” over the gas pumps and of an “oil-water separator” somewhere beneath the bus parking area.  My understanding is that the awnings, along with being gorgeous, will keep rainwater from falling on fuel spills and washing them down the drains before they can be contained.  The oil-water separator will catch all the runoff from the Lot Rut in the parking spaces and keep the oil from draining into the creek.  The piles of rocks surrounded by hay bales and barrels are covering up the drains during the project so that junk doesn’t go down there while they’re trying to put in the system.

–> WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU: The lot will be virtually unusable during the construction, which will be at least the next three weeks.  The South Gates will be closed for a while beginning very soon, meaning that buses will have to enter and leave through the North Gates and make some kind of turn-around inside the lot.  Needless to say, there will be no swinging.  Then, we’ll get the South Gates back… and promptly lose the North Gates.  The bus parking spaces will be affected somehow, but we’re not sure how at this point.  Basically, just follow the sups’ instructions and try not to hit stuff. 

Hey, if we had electric buses, we wouldn’t have to do all this. 

ALSO – It’s cold.  Please try to plug in your buses if you can park near one of the fancy roll-up plugs.  Paradoxically, the lot construction may make this more difficult. 

And there’s still one open spot on the charter tonight, 17.15-21.30, Omni – Rotunda, easy.

Thanks for reading.

16 thoughts on “UVa’s UTS: Polluting Meadow Creek?”

  1. Perhaps I missed something, but the general thrust of the quoted Email appears to be concern on the part of the author for the "bus lot" and inconvenience, rather than the pollution, whereas Waldo`s take was concern for the pollution.

    Not that it makes any difference, the contrast struck me as odd.

  2. Perhaps I missed something, but the general thrust of the quoted Email appears to be concern on the part of the author for the “bus lot” and inconvenience, rather than the pollution, whereas Waldo`s take was concern for the pollution.

    Yup, you’ve got it. The e-mail was internal, to UTS drivers, whose primary concern is their buses and the lot, since these changes affect how they do their job. My primary concern (and, I suspect, those of most folks that aren’t bus drivers) is pollution, since that affects me, whereas bus drivers having to drive around some hay bales does not.

  3. yes, I sense some sort of duality about his/her email intentions. however, it makes it all the more believable, since this is not some kind of "tree hugger" sirring up shit [btw, tree huggers are fine by me].

  4. [btw, tree huggers are fine by me]

    I’m sorry — proper usage is “not that there’s anything wrong with that” or “some of my best friends are tree huggers.” Please correct and resubmit.

  5. i get the feeling that someone sent you this "internal" email because they thought the environmental issue that UTS is working to correct should be brought to the public’s attention. i used to work for UTS, and in my opinion, the runoff from the lot (which also houses UVA motorpool) is no more dangerous than the runoff from any other parking lot or service station in charlottesville. i’m sure the drain in the UTS lot isn’t the only one that runs into meadow creek. i wonder, though, how many other businesses who pollute that creek would be so dilligent in correcting the problem, especially if it meant such large-scale disruption of their daily operations. believe me, running buses in and out of the lot sans the use of either the north or south gate is a ***** and a half.

    the author of this email obviously imbellished a bit in his or her description of the level of pollution caused by the UTS lot. yes, a diesel spill that went uncontained would be nasty, but IMHO, the UTS lot is not the worst, nor only, threat in that area to meadow creek.

  6. Eight months after a malfunctioning gasoline nozzle at UTS headquarters released over 50 gallons of diesel fuel into a local waterway, University Parking and Transportation has begun over $300,000 in facility improvements to protect local surface water from industrial pollution.

    Additions to the University’s Motor Vehicle Maintenance Facility, located on Millmont Street near the Barracks Road shopping center, include canopies over fuel pumps, protective curbing around bus washing areas and oil-water separators in storm water drains.

    These improvements are part of a comprehensive Pollution Prevention Plan, developed by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety over the past two years as a University-wide approach addressing ecological issues.


  7. I listened to a writer-resident in socal, on NPR, explaining the ‘natural’ state of nature there is either torrential rain w/mudslides or drought w/forest fires. The times it is not catastrophic, people are rebuilding homes on the same slopes as the last disaster occurred, cyclically repeating itself.

    It reminds me of a friend who just moved to Las Vegas, discovering much of the suburban real-estate is located in spots where there’s no rainwater evacuation, which is also cyclically torrential.

  8. heres another email sent out to the bus drivers tonight. i like the way this sup didnt think that it was newsworthy. doesnt she realize that it only take a quart of oil to ruin a whole pond or something? how about years of runoff?

    From: ?

    Date: Tue Nov 11, 2003 5:39:34 PM US/Eastern

    To: wdl-884@virginia.edu

    Subject: b:ook stuff and other assorted announcements

    Reply-To: ?

    Yo la bus,

    Book pages are in there for the rest of the semester. I believe full service ends December 5, so pages are there through then. Still lots of open stuff for your driving pleasure.

    One important thing about the new book pages: The pickup times for block 20 are now 9:10, 12:10, and 15:10. This is supposed to make more sense. If anyone is especially confused or disgruntled, sorry. I know nothing about block 20 anyway.

    We start going through the garage tomorrow. Read back to Kendall’s emails about the directions, so I dont have to type them again (and you dont have to read them again). There is a hidden incentive for not ignoring the monster: If everyone goes to the monster, then people will park there. If people park THERE, they wont park in W-UHall. Then we wont have to go through W-Uhall anymore (soon, hopefully, soon). Lambeth people are going to be hatin’, tell them that the monster eats people that complain.

    Wear your driver’s shirt. It doesnt have to be pressed, tucked in, worn with a tie, or even buttoned. Just throw it on over whatever you’re wearing. Not hard! Consider this your verbal warning. DPMs will be issued.

    The lot is going to be closed off sometime soon. Refer to Peter’s email for more info. I dont know why the Cav Daily and Channel 29 news find this so interesting, but if you’re going to talk to the press, have enough balls to have your name attached to your statement.

    I have one final word for you: Awesome. No matter what mud the papers fling, how much passengers complain, or how many blocks dont get driven because we dont have enough drivers, you all are doing an awesome job this semester. Hang in there for a few more weeks, and *hopefully* next semester will be a piece of cake.

  9. i think it’s newsworthy, but i also think it’s newsworthy to point out that there are 4 commercial gas stations (two full service stations) a merchants tire and auto center, countless restaurants, and three large shopping centers with big, oil laden parking lots, all within the watershed that UTS is taking so much heat for polluting. i reiterate, at least UVA is doing something about their part in it. do you think any of those private businesses would do the same if it were discovered that they were polluting meadow creek as such?

  10. My question is: how did you get this "internal University Transit Service e-mail"? You moolighting as a UTS driver on the weekends?

  11. i guess it’s easier to blame a state agency for polluting our local waterways than it is for people to accept that they’re doing it too every time they drive down the street.

  12. I think you all need to realize something about these emails that you are over-interpreting. They are written to the list by student supervisors, whose job is to oversee the day-to-day running of the bus service. They are not involved in any way in decisions about drainage or pollution prevention or anything like that. The reason they seem to not care about the pollution is because they don’t. Their job is to keep the drivers up to date with what is going on by repeating what they were told by their superiors.

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