The West Virginia Legislature is actively considering a bill (HB 2506) that would weaken West Virginia’s water quality protections.
It would do two things. First, it would change how compliance with standards is determined. Compliance with a standard is determined by measuring the amount of pollutant that is in a given volume of water in the stream. If we can assume when granting permits that there is more water in the stream, then more pollutants can be added to the stream.
For years and years, permits were issued based on assumptions that streams were at their lowest flow. Low flow means that fewer pollutants can be added. The proposal is to change the assumptions about stream flow so that we assume there is more water in the stream. If we change those assumptions, then industries will be allowed to discharge more toxins into our streams.
Second, the proposal would remove mixing zone protections. Currently, toxic dischargers must space out the discharges so that any discharge will be diluted. The dilution allows more pollution while at the same time requiring it to be spread out. The proposed bill would allow more toxic dischargers to locate closer together and create larger toxic hot spots.
There is no evidence to suggest that more toxic discharges would enhance West Virginia’s economic future. Neither has there been any example of an industry which has declined to locate in West Virginia because our water is too clean.
There have, however, been instances of lobbyists for industry going to the legislature and whispering the magic words (Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!) in the ears of the Legislators.
By the time you read this, this information will almost certainly be obsolete. The Highlands Voice comes out once a month, about one percent of the pace at which things change in the Legislature. To get more current information, try the West Virginia Environmental Council website (www.wvecouncil.org) or the Legislature website www.wvlegislature.gov. It has information on the status of bills, who voted which way, etc. You can also check the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Facebook page for updates.