Category Archives: HDD

Service Authority Board Votes 2-2 on Selling Water for ACP

At their meeting on June 21, 2018, the Nelson County Service Authority Board voted 2-2 on the question of setting a rate for Dominion to purchase 40,000 gallons of water per day from Lake Monocan for ACP construction, to be used primarily for the proposed HDD drilling at Reeds Gap. (George Miller, Executive Director of the Service Authority, stated that they cannot provide water for testing.)

There are normally 5 members of the Board, one from each district, but Russell Otis resigned last week and thus did not attend. Tommy Harvey and Robert McSwain voted against setting a rate for Dominion, Gary Sherwood and David Hight voted in favor of setting a rate. Since there was a tie vote, the matter will be discussed again at the July meeting, at which time the composition of the Board will have changed, with Justin Shimp, Ernie Reed, and Jesse Rutheford replacing Harvey, Otis, and McSwain.

According to the News & Advance, “with the contract, which could result in $3.5 million for the authority over two years, yet to be finalized, ACP indicated after the meeting it also is exploring other options for the water it needs for construction. ‘We’ll continue working with the service authority in the hopes of reaching an agreement,’ said Aaron Ruby, spokesman for leading ACP partner Dominion Energy, ‘but at this time we’re moving forward with our alternative solution to meet the project’s water needs.’ That alternative would be to truck in water each day for use in the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) process that would bore a path for the pipeline under the Blue Ridge Parkway from Nelson County into Augusta County. HDD construction is planned to start this summer, with activity focused near Beech Grove Road and along the border with Augusta County. The trucking alternative would mean increased traffic in the Wintergreen area to at least 10 daily trips by trucks to and from the site.”

Public Hearing: Water from Lake Monocan for ACP

On Thursday June 21, 2018, at 2pm Nelson County Service Authority will hold a public hearing on the proposed water rates in the proposed contract between the Service Authority and Dominion. The contract would allow the Service Authority to sell 40,000 gallons per day of Wintergreen’s Lake Monocan water to Dominion to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, specifically for the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) under the Blue Ridge Parkway at Reeds Gap. That’s 29 million gallons of water Dominion wants to buy over the next 2 years to build ACP and use for drilling fluid.

According to the May 23, 2018, article in the Nelson County Times reporting on the Service Authority’s meeting on May 17, which yielded no final decisions on a contract to provide water to the ACP for construction, the board could vote on the contract following the public hearing. A public hearing is required to set the special rates for ACP. The ACP engineer attending the May 17 meeting said the water would be used for HDD, but could be used for other aspects of construction, and the water used as part of the HDD drilling fluid will be “hauled off.” [How? where? what will be done to purify it?]

Below is a map showing Lake Monocan, the proposed source of water for Dominion’s pipeline drilling fluid, and the surrounding area.

WPOA Asks DEQ to Intervene


Wintergreen Property Owners Association filed comments with DEQ on June 12, 2018 asking DEQ not to accept the insufficient review the Army Corps of Engineers deemed acceptable as part of Nationwide Permit 12. Their comments relate specifically to VA AP-10237 (MP 158.7) and VA AP-10237 (MP 158.9} near the sole entrance/exit to Wintergreen. They state, “Wintergreen has already shared abundant information supporting the need for careful review, given the unique environmental and public safety challenges present where the ACP passes the only entrance and exit of our community. As required, this filing includes an analysis of the inadequacies of NWP 12 for this project and provides additional new information showing current site conditions, and clear evidence of pressurized ground water within the ACP route. This new evidence reinforces the need for DEQ to provide additional scrutiny of the environmental and public safety impacts of the ACP project near milepost (MP) 158.7, and for DEQ to not accept the previous insufficient review the Corps deems acceptable as part of NWP 12.”

The WPOA filing discusses debris flow and rockslides, ground water, soil and geologic concerns, and drilling under Reeds Gap, and includes detailed diagrams and LIDAR mapping. Wintergreen engineers and geologists use underground radar to show DEQ and FERC that ACP’s pipeline is not safe to build on on unstable land, fault lines, and underground aquifers. One result — water gushing from ACP soil borings.

The filing says, “In the interest of getting this project approved, the ACP has not carefully studied the geologic conditions present in and around MP 158. Had the ACP presented all of the evidence to FERC and DEQ at the time of permitting, it would have triggered additional review/discussion about; the steep slopes, the unstable colluvial material, the large volume of groundwater present, the potential for debris avalanches, catastrophic damage to the headwaters of the Rockfish River, and the public safety concerns over the entrapment of an entire community. None of the evidence presented to date suggests there has been careful review of the existing conditions and the potential problems this project may cause to Virginia Water. As part of the 401 certification, the Commonwealth should force transparency of the engineering plans related to this project, and in doing, will greatly reduce the negative, and possibly catastrophic, consequences that could result from a lack of oversight.”

In conclusion, the filing notes, “As this project gets underway, more and more evidence is coming to light that, the ‘best practices’ and ‘best in class’ approach to pipeline construction is inadequate. Environmental disasters recently occurred on a Dominion project near Spartanburg SC and on the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in Franklin County VA. The news coverage of contaminated spring fed waters in Montgomery County VA and the pipeline explosion last week in Marshall County WV, should give additional cause for serious concern. The pipeline that exploded in Marshall County was put into service in January of this year and was described as ‘best in class’ for safety, reliability, and efficiency by the company who built and is currently operating this brand-new pipeline. It is important to note that Dominion Energy regularly uses the phrase ‘best in class’ to describe the construction, operation, and safety of the ACP. With failures mounting on similar projects, DEQ should recognize the need to scrutinize the engineering and construction plans more carefully and make sure the ACP is in fact constructed in a way that protects the citizens of Virginia and the water we depend on.”

Read the full WPOA filing here, with copies of their previous relevant filings as attachments.

Blue Ridge Life news coverage includes photographs, discussion with Jay Roberts, Executive Director of WPOA, and a brief video of water pushing out around a locked cap on a test well within a few hundred feet of the entry-exit of Wintergreen Resort.  The story was also covered in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 6-17-18 (for digital subscribers only) and in the Daily Progress on 6-18-18.

Upcoming Public Hearing on Nelson Water Sale

In its issue for May 24, 2018, the Nelson County Times reported, Public hearing set on water sale as Service Authority, Atlantic Coast Pipeline near $3.5M deal. The Nelson County Service Authority’s Board of Directors made no decision on a contract with ACP, but at their recent meeting moved forward in the process by setting a public hearing on the water rates set forth in the potential contract, which could result in up to $3.5 million for the Authority. The hearing will take place at 2 p.m. June 21, 2018, at the Service Authority Administrative Building, 620 Cooperative Way, Arrington, VA 22922, in the Colleen Industrial Park.

According to George Miller, the Service Authority’s Executive Director, under the preliminary, “not yet” finalized contract ACP would pay a rate of more than 10 cents per gallon, which is 10 times what all other Service Authority customers in the area pay. Sourcing the water from Lake Monacan at Stoney Creek, the Service Authority would contract to provide 200 gallons per minute, up to 40,000 gallons of water per day from July 2018 through June 2020 at a pressure of 60 pounds per square inch. ACP would pay $500,000 for installation and connection of a 3-inch meter (compared to approximately $64,000 connection fee to other customers for a similar meter). Miller said a contract of this size would provide a little more breathing room when it comes to dealing with the authority’s monetary obligations.

The Nelson County Times article notes that, “The contract specifies provision of water is subject to Wintergreen’s water conservation and emergency action plan, which would prioritize the provision of potable water for human consumption in the event of an emergency water shortage.”

The water would primarily be used for the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) process that would bore a path for the pipeline under the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail at Reeds Gap, but could be used for other construction as well. ACP says purchasing water from the Service Authority would eliminate the need to haul in water every day, and that about “10 trips by tankers per day would be eliminated, reducing traffic and wear on Nelson roads.” DEQ requires that all water be treated before discharge, and ACP says that “water that will be used as part of the HDD drilling fluid will be ‘hauled off.'”

No information was provided on how many tanker trips per day would be required to “haul off” the water, nor on where the water would be discharged.

A relevant letter to the editor in the Nelson County Times asks Nelson County officialdom, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to Think before selling our water.  Another in the Daily Progress says Pipeline negotiations questioned.

Dominion’s Assault on the Blue Ridge


An update from the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative, Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance:

As reported previously, aerial photographs of apparent unauthorized construction work where Dominion Energy proposes to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were obtained during recent surveillance flights conducted by the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), a program of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA). Requests for investigation and clarification were submitted to FERC and the Virginia DEQ.

In response to media inquiries concerning “noncompliance with restrictions against earth disturbance and construction prior to receipt of required approvals,” Dominion spokesman, Aaron Ruby, asserted that the company is doing nothing of the sort, and that it is instead doing a geotechnical survey. See Pipeline prep area allegedly being constructed, citizen group files against FERC, News Leader, 3/23/18

CSI Investigator, David Sligh, has responded on behalf of ABRA, objecting to Mr. Ruby’s characterization of the construction activity and noting that over a year ago, when pipeline opponents objected to inadequate geotechnical study of the proposed drilling, Dominion responded by declaring that geotechnical investigation had been “fully accomplished.” See Dominion’s pipeline story doesn’t add up, Letter to News Leader, 3/30/18

The Backstory and a Warning 

Dominion intends to drill 4,639 feet through the Blue Ridge under the George Washington National Forest, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and Blue Ridge Parkway. Dominion’s plans call for use of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and contingency use of direct pipe installation (DPI) if the HDD operation fails. Given the topographic and geophysical challenges at the site, the Forest Service initially conditioned any authorization for ACP construction on prior successful completion of the proposed HDD or DPI operations. This condition would have avoided a situation in which significant investment associated with premature ACP construction would be put at risk and in direct conflict with established legal protection of highly valued public resources. Should the HDD and DPI prove impracticable after ACP construction is underway, there will be a strong incentive for allowing an open-cut crossing of the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The proposed drilling operations will have an extreme environmental footprint, requiring extensive excavation for entry and exit workspace, pipe pullback, fabrication, and testing workspace, as well as siting of heavy equipment for pipe handling, and a network of access roads – all on steep mountainsides with multiple stream crossings. As with other aspects of the ACP, the public and regulatory review agencies have not had access to detailed construction plans. The areas and amount of excavation required for construction have been imprecisely specified at best.

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition published a report in early 2017 describing both the risk of failure and the unavoidable environmental damage associated with the plans for drilling through the Blue Ridge. This report described the risk factors confronting both the HDD and contingency DPI operations. Although detailed geophysical investigation of the drill path is standard practice for assessing the feasibility of prospective HDD and DPI operations, the information considered during environmental review was limited in both scope and reliability. No subsurface borings were completed at or near the HDD endpoints and geophysical survey data were obtained for less than 25% of the drill path. See A High-Risk Proposal: Drilling Through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Now, we learn that Dominion Energy is belatedly collecting data that should have been collected and made available during environmental review. 

Dominion Energy knows how to game the system:  defer collection and analysis of essential environmental data until after the review process is concluded and approvals have been obtained. 

Further info:

CSI Incident Report – submitted to DEQ, 3/13/18

Request for Investigation – Submitted to FERC, 3/22/18

CSI Seeks FERC Investigation of Potential ACP Violations

Apparent equipment staging area and new or reconstructed road and bridges observed during Pipeline Air Force surveillance flights. (3/11/18)

On March 14, 2018, we reported on the first incident report from the Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), apparent unauthorized access road and staging area construction in the MP158 area, the Augusta County Horizontal Direction Drilling area. A request was filed March 22 on behalf of Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to investigate potential violations by Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) of the Commission’s Certificate and Virginia’s water quality certification. Aerial photographs taken earlier in March by ABRA’s CSI showed what appears to be substantial construction work in an area of Augusta County, near the site from which ACP proposes to bore through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The photographs show new and improved roads, new bridges, and what appear to be equipment parking and staging areas.

The observed activities do not appear to have been authorized under any of the limited Notices to Proceed FERC has issued, which allow tree cutting by non-mechanized means. The request explains that these actions will impact water quality in a number of ways and that, since the State of Virginia has not approved erosion and sediment control and stormwater plans and its water quality certification is not effective, possible land disturbance, changes to stormwater flows, and other effects must not be allowed. The submittal to FERC also notes that ACP’s weekly status reports have not provided notice of any of these activities and that environmental compliance reports indicate these sites have not been inspected.

The submitters also asked that the Commission report on its investigative proceedings and findings to ABRA, the CSI, and the public and that it not invoke regulatory provisions to keep this information from citizens.