July 6, 2020

Help Protect our Water – Make your voice heard by July 9!

Have you seen streams like this one clogged with mud from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)? If so, you have seen gross violations of Virginia’s water quality standards − rules that are supposed to protect all of our state waters. Knowing more about these issues can empower you to help protect our water in Virginia.

And this is not the only example of pollution impacts DEQ ignores. Gross algae infestations, streams that smell bad or look ugly, waters you can’t or won’t use because of these problems; all of these violate the law.

However, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) refuses to acknowledge or act to prevent these kinds of violations. 

If you know of places like these or are just outraged that they are permitted, now is the time for you to raise your voice! The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is accepting comments on a report that is supposed to identify water pollution problems in our waters and start a process to fix those problems.  If you enjoy Virginia’s waters for swimming, boating, fishing, or any other purpose, including simply the enjoyment of the beauty of these natural places, the DEQ is supposed to protect the quality of the water to allow you to do that.

Tell the DEQ how you use water and about the problems you’ve seen. Submit comments by Thursday, July 9 to: Sandra.Mueller@DEQ.Virginia.gov

1) Include your name, mailing address, and telephone number.

2) Name a waterway you use and tell the DEQ how you love to use it. Maybe there’s a waterway you want to use, but it’s too polluted at certain times of the year. Talk about that too.

3) Describe anything that made you not want to or able to use it like algae, bad smells, discoloration, or muddy sediment in the water (turbidity). Include any photographs, if you have them.

**How you use water matters and your uses can help protect it. **

Here are some examples below…

This is a satellite image of a paper mill discharge fouling the James River. This has been happening for decades making this water unpleasant and unsafe to use.
This is a green stream in the Shenandoah watershed. Would you want to let your kids swim in this water or let your dog have a drink? This kind of floating algae makes the stream unsafe and unpleasant for us to use.

Virginia’s water quality standards include something called General Criteria, which say in part that our waters shall be free of
floating debris, oil, scum, and other floating materials;
substances that produce color, tastes, turbidity, odors, or settle to form sludge deposits; or substances which nourish undesirable or nuisance aquatic plant life.

Also, pollution may not “interfere directly or indirectly with” your rightful use of the water. As mentioned above, these rightful uses include swimming, boating, fishing, or any other purpose, including simply the enjoyment of the beauty of these natural places.

These requirements have been legally enforceable in Virginia regulations for many decades and yet the DEQ has so far refused to do its job and apply them as they are written. DEQ officials claim they don’t know how to measure these impacts, so they don’t try.

If you think it’s a travesty that the DEQ has not admitted that these kinds of pollution are a problem, then tell them so. Follow the instructions above before the deadline on Thursday!

Make your comments by email to Sandra Mueller at the DEQ by Thursday, July 9: Sandra.Mueller@DEQ.Virginia.gov 

Thank you for taking the time to protect Virginia’s water and for helping to keep us all safe. When we all speak up together, it makes a difference!