In a Virginia Mercury guest column on May 11, 2020, Wild Virginia’s David Sligh discusses the ongoing refusal by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to recognize violations of water quality “in thousands of photographs, scientific study results, and other evidence given to DEQ” that “agency officials can’t or, more plausibly, won’t see.”
He says, “In state reviews for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, many of us warned that dirt washing off the land and released during digging and blasting through streams would produce harmful sediment pollution. MVP’s degradation of our waters has proven us right. DEQ failed to use available tools or develop necessary ones to prevent that damage in this case and these failures have allowed pollution problems in many other cases as well, though usually with much less public exposure.”
DEQ’s response? They repeatedly say they don’t know how to assess whether a violation is present, it is too difficult to adopt numeric criteria for pollutants, tasks are too difficult to do in a timely fashion, and resources are lacking.
In March 2020, DEQ announced a new stakeholder advisory group to discuss numeric criteria for turbidity in streams. Sounds good, right? Not as good as it sounds.
“First, DEQ has decided to exclude willing and able members of the public from meaningful roles and has stacked the SAG with representatives of regulated industries and others with financial interests and histories of opposing stringent regulations.”
“Second, DEQ started this process after decades of failing to provide this most basic protection and, only then, under orders from the State Water Control Board. This lack of initiative by DEQ leaders leaves Virginia trailing behind a majority of states and our waters unprotected against severe damages that should have been stopped years ago.”
For the new stakeholder advisory group, DEQ “hand-picked organizations and individuals it wanted in the room” and “because this committee is not part of an official regulatory process, state laws about public involvement do not apply.”