Advocating in Charleston and Washington, D.C.
WV Rivers is the only statewide organization focused on water policy and protecting public lands headwaters. In our state capital, this work involves intensive science and policy analysis, working to shape legislation and regulations, and collaborating on enforcement. In our nation’s capital it includes advocating sound water policy, ensuring federal funding for safe water programs and public lands in West Virginia, and defending our systems of public lands.
Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards
The rules that set limits on the amount of pollution entering West Virginia’s rivers and streams are up for review. Every three years West Virginia’s Water Quality Standards undergo a revision process called the Triennial Review. West Virginia is in the midst of this process and WVDEP has released their proposed changes, you can view them here.
WV Rivers has analyzed WVDEP’s
Key Revisions and Suggested Comments
Human Health Criteria. EPA has updated the National Recommended Water Quality Criteria to protect human health for 94 chemical pollutants. These criteria set limits on the allowable amount of the chemicals to be present in a waterbody. EPA’s updates reflect the latest scientific information. WVDEP has chosen to only adopt the updated criteria for 56 pollutants.
Request: Adopt all 94 recommended criteria. Doing so would proactively equip WVDEP with protective pollution limits should any of the 94 chemicals be discharged in WV.
Overlapping Mixing Zones. Revisions allow for overlapping mixing zones containing pollutants most dangerous to human health. Mixing zones are toxic hot spots where pollutants are allowed to be discharged at levels that exceed safe standards, relying on eventual dilution of pollutant concentrations to safer levels. Overlapping mixing zones can lead to higher pollution concentrations and potential interactions between pollutants.
Request: Add language to the rule that requires evaluation of potential human health impacts caused by cumulative effects and interactions between different pollutants, as recommended by EPA, prior to approval of any overlapping mixing zone.
Request: Require signage that warns the public that the waterbody contains high levels of pollutants harmful to human health, and that contact with the water or consumption of fish harvested in the area could have severe health impacts. The signage should also include a graphic depicting the toxicity of the water for individuals that cannot read English.
Harmonic Mean to calculate discharge limits . Remember the toxic water bill, aka “Cancer Creek bill”, the WV Legislature passed in 2017? Now it’s being implemented with the proposed changes in this rule. The consequence is more toxins and cancer-causing chemicals allowed in our water. The new method, harmomic mean, puts at us risk for short-term exposure.
Request: Include discretion to apply a more protective method for calculating discharge limits for pollutants that are known to harm human health through short-term exposure.
Past Water Policy Priorities
2018 Legislative Session
2018 Water Policy
The 2018 legislative session closed on Saturday, March 10. Below you’ll find an update on each of the bills we worked on over the session.
We killed a number of bills that were harmful to water quality and were able to secure improvements to others. You can watch executive director, Angie Rosser, on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s The Legislature Today discuss some of the bills we prioritized this session here.
Tracking water policy:
SB270: The state parks logging bill. After five weeks of intensive grassroots organizing, our efforts culminated in over 18,000 messages being sent to the governor and legislators opposing the bill, and SB270 died in committee. Read about the monumental victory here.
SB410: This bill would have established a new position, the Industry Advocate, within the WV Department of Environmental Protection. It died in committee.
HB2909: This bill would have abolished the office of the environmental advocate within WVDEP. It died in committee.
SB438: This is a good bill that would authorize the issuance of bonds to fund improvements at state parks. It has been signed into law.
SB626: This bill is generally related to coal mining. In its original form it weakened the public notice process for surface mine permits and deleted a large section of the Water Pollution Control Act. Based on WV Rivers recommendations, the House amended SB626 restoring public notice by publication. Water quality certifications and mitigation requirements for surface mines will be governed by rule. It pass both chambers of the legislature. Read more about our SB626 concerns here.
SB290: This bill makes changes to water quality standards and pollution limits. The original bill was replaced by an improved substitute thanks to WV Rivers efforts. It has been passed by the full legislature. The hard work on this bill is still ahead of us. In the coming months, SB290 will undergo rule-making. Stay tuned, we’re going to need your help! See our analysis on SB290 in a previous edition of Policy News here.
HB4154: The “2018 Regulatory Reform Act” expedites the approval of certain industrial projects in a way that leaves the public out of the process. It passed out of the House but die in the Senate Government Organization Committee.
2017 West Virginia Water Policy
2017 West Virginia Water Policy
HB 2506 – Changing design flow and allowing for overlapping mixing zones. We opposed HB 2506 that would allow more toxins and cancer-causing chemicals into our drinking water supplies. HB2506 Fact Sheet.
Revisions to Water Quality Standards. We support protective water quality standards that protect our right to use and enjoy clean water. SB687 Fact Sheet.
Aluminum and Selenium
The WV Legislature approved revisions to water quality standards that would allow more toxic Aluminum and Selenium pollution in our rivers and streams. Before the revisions go into effect, they must be approved by the EPA. The Selenium revision was approved by EPA in June 2016. Approval or disapproval by EPA of the Aluminum revision is still pending.The EPA’s concerns about these changes are reflected in their February 23, 2016 letter to WVDEP available EPA Comments on WV Se and Al 2-23-16.
Triennial Review of State Water Quality Standards
We participated in regular meetings of the WVDEP Water Quality Standards Program and commenting on their triennial review of the state standards. Five revisions were being proposed – a summary can be found here – however WVDEP withdrew the rule before it would go to the 2017 legislative approval process.
Aboveground Storage Tank Act
We support oversight of aboveground storage tanks to adequately protect water resources. In 2017, HB 2811 exempts 2,300 oil and gas tanks from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, yet maintains their requirements to register, label and provide notice to public water systems. In 2016, the Legislature passed the Aboveground Storage Tank Act rule:
Proposed Rules Governing Horizontal Well Development
We support strong regulation of “fracking” and its waste to adequately protect water resources. In 2016, we opposed a dangerous bill that would change permitting processes, SB 565, did not pass. We also monitored SB 601 that dealt with regulation of drilling waste landfills. We are participating in major proposed pipeline projects to minimize impacts to water quality and quantity.
Federal Water Policy
Federal Water Policy
EPA/Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Rule
We support the clarification of headwater streams and wetlands are under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act.
OSMRE Stream Protection Rule
We support stronger protections of streams threatened by mining impacts.
Visit our Publications page to read or download guides to getting involved in your community and in policy.
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