New Report Highlights Threat of Pipeline Construction to Water Quality

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #269, March 26, 2020:

A new report on turbidity in streams and rivers underscores how increased sediment loads will adversely affect aquatic life as well as drinking water quality.

Numeric Turbidity Water Quality Standards: A Tool to Protect Aquatic Life was released this week by the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Trout Unlimited. It points out the impacts that pipeline construction has on nearby streams and rivers, either in the path of a pipeline or in the proximity of construction.

“Excavation adjacent to, and within, streams and rivers has the potential to cause significant sediment pollution if erosion control best management practices (BMPs) are ineffective in keeping sediment from leaving the worksite and/or right of way. Increased erosion and sedimentation in streams harm aquatic life. Sediment pollution can smother spawning beds and fish eggs, reducing juvenile fish survival. Increased sedimentation also degrades habitat for benthic macroinvertebrates, aquatic insects that provide food for larger fish species, causing impacts to benthic community health and diversity, in addition to the species who feed on them.”

The report includes the results of water quality monitoring associated with construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. It notes that in June 2018 a heavy rainfall led to turbidity levels in the Roanoke River several times what should be acceptable.

Two principal recommendations are made:

  • Numeric turbidity standards should be adopted in Virginia. (The Virginia Water Pollution Control Board has direction the Department of Environmental Quality to adopt such standards, but to date the agency has not taken action.)
  • Already established numeric turbidity standards in West Virginia should be enforced.