Lewisburg, WV — Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed a formal warning to the federal Environmental Protection Agency this week that both EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have failed their legal duty to protect many of the state’s most vulnerable streams. West Virginia used a lax measurement to judge impaired waterways throughout our state, leaving 420 damaged streams without the protection they need to fully recover. Appalachian Mountain Advocates has been pushing for stronger protections for these streams for over six years.
The Clean Water Act requires West Virginia to develop a list of all impaired waters, known as the 303(d) List. Including a stream on the list provides an extra level of protection, which is necessary to fully restore vulnerable waterways and prevent additional harm. The state must develop a management plan and establish Total Maximum Daily Loads for any pollutant impairing the water of a 303(d) List stream. These tools help to guide the state in what it can permit polluters, like coal operators, to discharge into these fragile streams.
Unfortunately, West Virginia used an entirely outdated, more lenient approach to evaluate our streams. EPA (and Appalachian Mountain Advocates) has told the state for more than five years that it must instead use EPA’s recommended, more scientifically sound test. A full 420 additional streams would be protected if West Virginia used the appropriate test. The decision imperils some of the state’s premier trout fisheries, such as along sections of the Elk River, including the headwaters.
By relying on its lax, obsolete measurement to create its list, West Virginia has attempted to escape providing protections to help restore these damaged streams. Worse still, EPA has failed to do anything about it. West Virginia proposed its flawed 303(d) List nearly a year ago, and the Clean Water Act requires EPA to approve or deny the proposal within 30 days. Yet EPA has not acted, leaving these 420 streams throughout West Virginia in jeopardy.
If EPA and West Virginia fail to comply with the Clean Water Act, Appalachian Mountain Advocates will file a lawsuit to compel them to do so. Appalmad represents the Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and West Virginia Rivers Coalition in this action.