The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality took neighbors’ questions Thursday regarding the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s potential impact on water.
Virginia House Delegates Greg Habeeb and Joseph Yost hosted two public Q&A sessions where DEQ officials addressed residents’ concerns.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline would run more than 300 miles through six counties in Southwest Virginia.
The DEQ must now decide whether or not to recommend certification of the project to the State Water Control Board.
Some neighbors who spoke at Thursday’s meeting at Cave Spring High School expressed frustration over the pipeline’s potential impact on groundwater. Every public comment at the meeting raised concerns.
“The impacts here are going to be felt downstream,” said Robert Johnson, who lives in Bent Mountain.
Johnson said he and his wife Roberta use well water at their home. But they said they are also worried about the water that flows into the valley.
“By cutting trees and raising the temperature, by loading it up with sediment and pollutants, it’s going to affect the drinking water of Roanoke,” Roberta Johnson said.
But according to officials with the DEQ, if the project receives its Clean Water Act 401 Quality Certification, permanent impacts to water quality will not be an issue.
“It’s our responsibility to assure that there is a reasonable assurance that water quality is protected,” said David Paylor, DEQ director.
If that certification is granted, Paylor said, DEQ inspectors would be on the ground during and after construction to make sure the water isn’t being polluted and any problems are solved immediately.
“Opportunities for public comment are widespread,” Paylor said. “We are taking that comment seriously, and we are not going move ahead before we’re confident that we know what we need to know.”
However, not everyone is buying what the DEQ had to say at the meeting.
“When you pollute something, you can’t mitigate it,” said Lynda Majors, who lives in Montgomery County. “We have good water. There will be problems. This pipeline shouldn’t be certified at all.”
Written comments were accepted at the meeting that will be kept as part of the public record considered by the DEQ, according to officials.
The DEQ is expected to share its recommendations with the State Water Control Board this fall, Paylor said. Public comments for that are being accepted until August 22, he added.
Public input on the DEQ’s erosion and sediment plans is open until October 13, Paylor said.