News Feature | March 1, 2017

West Virginia May Change Water Pollution Rules

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

West Virginia lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow more toxic discharges into waterways in the state.

Endorsed by the administration of Governor Jim Justice, a republican, and by the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, the legislation “would apply a new type of stream flow measurement to set permitted discharge limits not just for cancer-causing chemicals, but also for pollutants that are linked to non-cancer human health effects,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

“West Virginia currently uses a flow referred to as ‘7Q10,’ which is the lowest seven-day consecutive flow that occurs at least once every 10 years. The bill would mandate the use of an average flow called ‘harmonic mean,’” the report said.

Lawmakers pushed the bill another step closer to approval in the legislature this week, according to the Gazette-Mail.

Backers of the legislation say the state’s current standards have a negative impact on job growth. Chris Hamilton, chairman of the Business and Industry Council, said West Virginia’s environmental rules “hamper and discourage growth,” according to the report.

State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher spoke out in support of the legislation, per WV Metro News: “Don’t for a minute think that when you take that position you don’t send out a very strong message to future employers, whether the expansion of existing facilities or bringing in new ones, that you are not welcome.”

“For heaven’s sake look around. We are 50th in health. Look around at the oxycontin problem we’ve had. You know what that stems from? A lack of a job. If you want to help the health of our citizenry give me the opportunity to attract industry and not shoo them away,” he said, per the report.

Opponents of the legislation say it would allow more legal pollution to enter rivers and streams in the state.

“There’s no question this bill is a favor to industrial polluters,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, per the Gazette-Mail. “It simply comes down to a policy decision: Does the Legislature want to allow more toxic and cancer-causing chemicals in our water?”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Wastewater Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.