WVDEP Releases Revised Human Health Protections

By WV Rivers Coalition

In late March the WVDEP released their plan to update human health protections within West Virginia’s water quality standards. 

Human health criteria determine how much of a toxin can be in our water before human health is put at risk. Strengthening criteria based on the best science available has long been a priority of WV Rivers and E-council. Did you know that West Virginia’s current human health criteria is based on data that is over 30 years old?

If you follow water policy, you might remember that during the 2019 legislative session human health criteria was the hot button issue but the legislature delayed the sorely needed updates until 2021. Read a recap of the 2019 session here.

In September of 2019, WV Rivers and our policy “think-tank” the Water Policy Workgroup, which E-Council is a member of, submitted a comprehensive plan to WVDEP with recommendations for updating human health criteria. At the end of March 2020, WVDEP released a proposal with their plan to revise the limits that is now out for public comment. WVDEP adopted some of our recommendations, like using a more appropriate fish consumption rate to estimate toxin exposure. But there are major gaps in protections.

Here’s how WVDEP responded to the Water Policy Workgroup’s 4 recommendations:

  1. We asked WVDEP to use a higher fish consumption rate. WVDEP agreed with our analysis and are using the EPA’s recommended fish consumption rate.
  2. We asked WVDEP adopt EPA recommended limits that strengthen standards. Of the 94 criteria, WVDEP is proposing to adopt 24.
  3. We recommended WVDEP establish criteria for unregulated chemicals. No new criteria is proposed for unregulated chemicals.
  4. We asked WVDEP not to weaken any existing standards. Of the 24 new standards adopted, 13 or over half are proposed to be weakened.

What’s next? On May 19 WVDEP will host a virtual public hearing that anyone can join using an internet connected device or phone. WV Rivers will issue an action alert with full analysis of the proposal and will provide talking points prior to the hearing. Sign-up to receive email action alerts from WV Rivers at wvrivers.org.

What: Virtual and In-Person Public Hearing (if allowable) on Water Quality Standards
When: May 19, 6:00-8:00PM

To attend the hearing virtually, go here: https://zoom.us/j/429602549 Enter Meeting ID: 429 602 549. To use a phone to call in to meeting, dial: 301 715 8592 and enter Meeting ID: 429 602 549.

If an in-person hearing is allowable, it will be held at WVDEP Headquarters in the Coopers Rock Conference Room at 6PM on May 19, 2020.

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