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.
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.
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 macroinvertebrates. Learn how WV Rivers’ volunteers use biological assessments to determine water quality here.
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- The current method, WVSCI, used to calculate whether a stream supports aquatic life is outdated and should be updated to the more accurate, EPA recommended method, Genus Level Assessment of Most Probable Stream Status (GLIMPSS).