by West Virginia Rivers Coalition
The WVDEP is once again accepting public comments on a revised rule that analyzes the aquatic life in the stream to assess whether the stream is meeting the state’s water quality standards. Submit your comments here.
The latest iteration of the procedural rule is being developed by WVDEP in response to SB 687 passed in 2017. Its purpose is to define the aquatic life component in the narrative water quality standards and the threshold at which the standard is being met or not.
The narrative water quality standards state that a stream must be able to support aquatic life. This narrative standard has been used to hold industry accountable for polluting a stream to the point where it no longer supports a healthy population of aquatic organisms. The aquatic organisms used to measure stream health are the benthic macroinvertebrates.
WVDEP’s new procedural rule describes an approach based on the current method that WVDEP has used for the past 18 years. The agency has yet to adopt EPA’s recommended method. The currently used method, WV Stream Condition Index (WVSCI), scores aquatic life communities on a scale of 0-100. The new rule would establish an impairment threshold of 50, an attainment threshold of 72, and values between 50 and 72 must undergo additional analysis. View a flowchart of how the assessment process works.
This revised method raises several concerns:
- The impairment value of 50 and 61 are not based on any statistical information or scientific data.
- The streams receiving values between 50 and 72 must undergo additional analysis, during which time they are neither listed as impaired nor considered healthy.
- The proposed rule does not fulfill WVDEP’s duties under the Clean Water Act and allows DEP to delay listing streams that fall within 50 and 72 until additional analysis is performed.
- The current method, WVSCI, used to calculate whether a stream supports aquatic life is outdated and should be updated to the more accurate, EPA recommended method, Genus Level Assessment of Most Probable Stream Status (GLIMPSS).
Let WVDEP know you want them to use a more precise method to assess stream health! Submit your comments by March 26!