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Improving Virginia’s Water Future: 56 Organizations Send “People’s Platform for Change” to State Water Board

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From Wild Virginia:

Improving Virginia’s Water Future

Groups Seek Regulatory Reforms by Water Board

Today, fifty-six (56) organizations from across Virginia sent the State Water Control Board the attached document – A People’s Platform for Change – seeking new regulations and reforms in the way the Department of Environmental Quality enforces water quality standards.

The Platform is supported by conservation groups, businesses, social and environmental justice advocates, and others, who represent thousands of Virginians from every corner of the state. The groups are asking the Board to take four specific actions at its upcoming meeting on September 24th.

The issues addressed in the Platform include:

Narrative Criteria – Virginia’s water quality standards include plain statements prohibiting discharges of pollution that harm aquatic life or interfere with beneficial human uses. However, the DEQ has refused to apply these requirements in some regulatory actions. This has allowed problems like those seen on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, where permits allow muddy water to pour into our streams from construction sites. In other areas, severe algae blooms have occurred for years and the DEQ has failed to act to solve the problems. No new regulatory action is necessary to correct this problem. The groups simply call on the Board to require that DEQ enforce these rules in every regulatory action from this time forward.

Numeric Criteria – New regulations to set goals for the amounts of certain substances that may be allowed in our streams, called numeric criteria, are needed to supplement the existing rules. The State Water Control Board ordered the DEQ to begin a process to adopt numeric turbidity criteria on April 15, 2019. To date, the DEQ has taken no substantive action to carry out that order. Similarly, numeric criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus are needed to prevent nuisance growths of algae in some of our waters but the DEQ has failed to act. The groups are asking that the Board order formal processes this year to move toward adoption of these new regulations.

Adequate Assessment of Impacts to Waters – Currently, the DEQ issues approvals for thousands of discharges and water impacts across the state from construction and other activities, under so-called “general permits” and “general certifications” without performing analyses to ensure that water quality standards will be met; simply assuming that pollution control methods will work, even where evidence refutes this assumption. Here again, no new regulations are needed. The Platform’s signers simply ask that the Board order the DEQ to do the necessary reviews to make sure waters are protected.

The groups joining this call to the State Water Control Board believe this is an opportunity to make positive changes and prevent harms to our waters that have sometimes gone uncontrolled in the past. The Board has the power to fix these problems and we hope to work with them to accomplish this important goal.

Click here to read the People’s Platform.