Comment to WVDEP on Biological Assessment Rule

The WVDEP is accepting public comments on a rule that analyzes the aquatic life in the stream to assess whether the stream is meeting the state’s water quality standards.

A public hearing will be held on the proposed rule on May 6 at 6pm in WVDEP’s Charleston office, where you can learn more and submit comments. You can also submit your comments online here by May 6.

Background

The new procedural rule is being developed by WVDEP in response to Senate Bill 687 which passed in 2017. Its purpose is to define the aquatic life component in the narrative water quality standards and the threshold at which the standard is being met or not. Read the proposed rule here.

The narrative water quality standards state that a stream must be able to support aquatic life. This narrative standard has been used to hold industry accountable for polluting a stream to the point where it no longer supports a healthy population of aquatic organisms. The aquatic organisms used to measure stream health are the benthic macro invertebrates. Learn how WV Rivers’ volunteers use biological assessments to determine water quality here.

Suggest Comments

WVDEP’s new procedural rule describes an approach based on the current method that WVDEP has used for the past 18 years. The agency has yet to adopt EPA’s recommended method. The currently used method, WV Stream Condition Index (WVSCI), scores aquatic life communities on a scale of 0-100. The new rule would establish an impairment threshold of 61 and an attainment threshold of 72, which raises several concerns:

  • The impairment value of 61 is not based on any statistical information or scientific data.
  • The streams receiving values between 61 and 72 fall within a gray area, where they are neither listed as impaired nor considered healthy.
  • The proposed rule does not fulfill WVDEP’s duties under the Clean Water Act and allows WVDEP to ignore streams that fall within the gray area and avoid listing those streams as impaired.
  • The current method, WVSCI, used to calculate whether a stream supports aquatic life is outdated and should be updated to the more accurate, EPA recommended method, Genus Level Assessment of Most Probable Stream Status (GLIMPSS).

How to Comment

You can submit comments on the proposed rule through 8:00PM, May 6, 2019.

  1. Oral comments can be provided at the May 6 public hearing.
  2. Online here; or
  3. By mail using the following address:

John Wirts
Water Quality Standards, DWWM
WV Department of Environmental Protection
601 57th St. S.E.
Charleston, WV 25304

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