DEP comments on the restoration project of the lower Guyandotte watershed plagued by agricultural runoff and faulty septic tanks | Energy and environment

The Lower Guyandotte River watershed, which spans parts of seven counties, has several hundred streams that do not meet water quality standards.

West Virginia environmental regulators are collecting public comment on what they’re doing about this.

The State Department of Environmental Protection will hold a virtual meeting via Zoom at 6 p.m. Thursday to answer questions and describe its process or the development of plans required by the federal government for non-compliant waterways. water quality standards.

The ministry has developed its plans, known as total maximum daily loads, for streams not meeting standards for fecal coliform bacteria, total iron, selenium, pH, dissolved aluminum and with dissolved hydrogen peroxide.

A draft report published this month on the total maximum daily loads for the watershed that the consulting and engineering firm Tetra Tech prepared for the ministry is addressing 278 weathered streams in the lower Guyandotte river watershed .

A total maximum daily load establishes the maximum permissible pollutant load for a body of water to meet water quality standards. The Federal Water Sanitation Act requires that total maximum daily loads be established for waters that have been altered by pollution, even after the application of pollution control measures.

According to the report, the predominant sources of fecal coliform bacteria in the watershed are sewage and insufficiently treated runoff. State environmental regulators have determined that implementing maximum total daily loads for fecal coliforms would remove untreated wastewater and significantly reduce loads in agricultural runoff.

Faulty on-site septic systems, untreated wastewater discharges and rainfall runoff from agricultural and residential areas and effluents from public and private wastewater treatment facilities also contribute to the alterations of fecal coliform bacteria in the pond. pouring.

The report highlights failed septic systems as important “diffuse sources”. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines diffuse sources as any source of water pollution that does not originate from a confined means of transportation such as a well or a ditch.

Research by the Department of Environmental Protection yielded an estimate of 13,500 homes that are not served by centralized wastewater collection and treatment systems and are within 100 meters of a waterway. water.

The Lower Guyandotte River watershed includes most of Cabell and Lincoln counties as well as the northern third of Logan County and small parts of Putnam, Boone, Kanawha and Mason counties. The watershed encompasses 739 square miles.

There are 16 mining-related water pollution permits with 153 associated outlets active in the metal-affected parts of the lower Guyandotte watershed.

Active, reclaimed and abandoned mining operations are dominant land uses and are believed to be the source of selenium degradation of 10 fluxes discussed in the report.

The report notes that permit writers in the Mining and Salvage Division of the Department of Environmental Protection are responsible for incorporating the maximum daily waste load allowances required into new or reissued permits. and ensure compliance.

The watershed contained 38 active construction sites with a total disturbed area of ​​325 acres registered under general stormwater construction permits, according to the report, which notes that there were more than 3,000 oil and gas wells. conventional and vertical active in parts of the watershed. Runoff from unpaved access roads to these wells and disturbed areas around the wells contributed to sediment from adjacent watercourses.

The public comment period ends July 14.

Comments should be sent by email to [email protected] or by mail to Mindy Neil, ATTN: Lower Guyandotte Draft TMDL comments, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, 601 57th St. SE, Charleston, WV 25304 .

The ministry will send the final draft of the total maximum daily loads to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval after reviewing public comments.

A Geographic Information System-fed history map providing insight into total maximum daily loads can be found at

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