Richmond's Department of Public Utilities is now operating in emergency mode and others are wondering how bad this crude oil spill will be.
"These things can really be crippling to not only the river but also communities," says Bill Street, CEO of the James River Association. "It increases the chances of fish and other things ingesting crude oil and that certainly can be very harmful to them."
At this point, city leaders say there's no need for residents to be alarmed. Oil booms have been placed in the section of the river where drinking water comes from and the area is being monitored.
"We are going to continually test the water to determine whether or not there is any oil on the downstream side of the booms," says Department of Public Utilities Director Robert Steidel.
Crude oil is lighter than water so it rises to the top. Those booms in the water are meant to absorb the oil and keep it from getting into the drinking water.
"Those booms are not perfect so they're not a guarantee that some of the crude oil couldn't get past those booms," says Street.
If that happens, Richmond leaders say they'll stop getting water from the James and start pulling water from Tuckahoe Creek.
For now, it's watch, wait, and hope for no long-term negative consequences.
"All the impacts of a spill like this need to be addressed and everything should be put back in place," said Street.
City authorities say the oil booms will be in place until authorities in Lynchburg give the all clear. They say it takes about 48 hours for water in the Lynchburg area to get down to Richmond.