The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection this week released a long-awaited plan to update the state’s water quality standards.
The rules govern the amount of pollution that can be discharged into the state’s streams and rivers.
The agency first proposed this revision of human health criteria in the state's water quality standards in 2018. WVDEP originally proposed updating standards for 60 pollutants in line with 2015 suggestions by the U.S. EPA. Two-thirds of the updates made it so less of certain chemicals could be discharged into rivers and streams and one-third loosened pollution levels.
The proposal sparked controversy, most notably pushback from the West Virginia Manufacturers Association. The state Legislature in 2019 adopted a bill that required DEP to hold off on updating the standards until 2021 and go back to the drawing board.
The agency’s new proposal, released this week, would adopt 24 of EPA’s proposed updates. That includes weakening some standards. Environmental groups asked the agency to strengthen all pollution criteria.
The proposal is open for public comment. And a virtual public hearing is scheduled for May 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.