Some 20 households in Horizons Village near Nellysford in Nelson County, Virginia, will be testing their groundwater quality to gather baseline data suitable for legal action if and when the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline begins. The proposed pipeline route goes through the residential village.
The purpose of the testing is to document how clean the residents’ drinking water is to allow a comparison to any later contamination from activities related to the pipeline’s construction or operation. Other testing projects to establish baselines on surface water in the village and elsewhere are underway, according to Lisa Lefferts, a resident of Horizons Village who holds a Master of Science in Public Health degree.
“Ideally we want to test for anything that could possibly contaminate our water as a result of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Unfortunately, there are many unknowns. For example, we don’t know what specific blasting agents or herbicides might be used, if any. Water is called ‘the universal solvent’ because it dissolves more substances than any other liquid, and we cannot test for everything; there are practical and cost constraints,” Lefferts said.
The testing project will cover a list of 87 parameters, ranging from coliform and fecal coliform bacteria to inorganic metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury, and organic chemicals such as benzene and toluene. The project will also offer optional testing for dissolved methane/ethane and possibly glyphosate at an additional cost to the homeowner. Natural gas, which the ACP would carry, is primarily methane and to a lesser extent ethane.
The cost of testing for the 87 parameters listed by Lefferts is a group rate of $250 per sample. Testing for dissolved methane/ethane and glyphosate will each add about $150 to that cost.
Lefferts said, “After consulting with our lawyer and others, we have decided to conduct one round of well water testing prior to any pipeline-related construction or land disturbance. While more testing is always desirable, we expect fairly clean results, given that we are an eco-development (e.g., our covenants restrict use of toxic chemicals) in a fairly remote area. Previous homeowners have done water testing in the past. Also there are practical (cost) reasons.”
“This baseline water testing project does not include assessing how the pipeline may affect water quantity/flow rate. We are separately investigating the best way to do this at a reasonable cost,” Lefferts said.
Property owners in the path of the pipeline, and owners of adjoining properties who are interested in such testing can contact Friends of Nelson, PO Box 33, Nellysford, VA 22958, 434-260-3298, for additional information and possible financial help. Testing through a group would save individual property owners a good deal of money, according to Friends of Nelson.
Virginia’s State Water Control Board and Department of Environmental Quality are currently considering whether to grant a permit to the ACP and Mountain Valley Pipeline and will hold hearings on the matter on Dec. 6 and 7 for the MVP and Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 for the ACP at 9:30 a.m. each day at Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA 23222.