Latest News, WVPA Sharing

WV House approves bill affecting water quality

By LACIE PIERSON

The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Wednesday that would change how state environment officials calculate the amount of waste being deposited into the state’s rivers and streams.

House Bill 2506 passed by a vote of 63-37 in the House Wednesday afternoon.

The bill changes the method by which officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection calculate the concentration of a given form of waste in the state’s waterways.

The bill also takes away authority from the West Virginia Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection to alter or add rules regarding the state’s water quality standards. The bill gives the West Virginia Legislature the authority to approve those rules made by the DEP secretary.

The bill also allows for the overlap of mixing zones, which are the areas in waterways where waste is diluted by the water.

The bill didn’t affect the limits of waste that can be released into the Mountain State’s waterways, nor did it affect which materials would be measured.

The bill will advance to the West Virginia Senate for its consideration.

Supporters of the bill argued it would bring West Virginia in compliance with the same water quality measurement methods as its surrounding states and that the measurement method would help expand the manufacturing industry in the state.

The bill’s critics said the new calculation method would allow manufacturers to dump more waste into the state’s waterways because the calculation method measures averages instead of real quantities of materials. They also argued that the state’s whitewater rafting, fishing and other related adventure tourism industries would be negatively impacted by the measure.

The delegation of Cabell and Wayne County representatives voted 5-3 on the measure.

Those local delegates voting in favor of the bill were Ken Hicks, D-Wayne; Carol Miller, R-Cabell; Chuck Romine, R-Cabell; Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell; and Robert Thompson, D-Wayne.

Local delegates voting against the bill were Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell; Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell; and Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell.

In explaining the bill, Del. Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the proposal had received the blessing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill requires DEP officials to calculate the “harmonic mean” flow to measure the amount of discharge in the water.

The harmonic mean is a specific formula used to find a mean, or average, and the formula takes into consideration water flow when determining the average amount of waste dumped into a waterway.

The average determined by the formula will be used to calculate permit limits for manufacturers if the bill is signed into law.

The bill also will allow for mixing zones to overlap.

Mixing zones can’t be larger than one-third of the width of the waterway they exist in, and they cannot extend downstream any more than five times the width of the waterway they’re in, according to the state’s water quality standards.

So, for a waterway that’s 100 feet wide, a manufacturer can’t have a mixing zone of waste larger than 34 feet, and the waste put into the waterway has to be completely diluted by the time it’s 500 feet downstream.

However, manufacturers can apply for waivers from the DEP for those rules, according to the state’s water quality standards.

The bill approved by the House Wednesday allows for those mixing zones to overlap, meaning multiple manufacturers can discharge materials into the waterways in a given area. The language in HB 2506 did not clarify how many manufacturers can discharge materials into a waterway in overlapping mixing zones, but those mixing zones otherwise would be regulated by the existing water quality standards.

The bill also had language saying overlapping mixing zones could not go farther than one-half mile upstream, meaning the waste must be diluted within a half-mile past the point where it enters the water.

See more from The Herald-Dispatch

Comments are closed.

West Virginia Press Newspaper Network " "

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address