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West Virginia’s Use of Expired Stormwater Permits Questioned (1)

July 23, 2020, 7:32 PMUpdated: July 24, 2020, 12:19 AM

A coalition of environmental nonprofits have asked the EPA to investigate why the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is allowing the use of expired stormwater permits at construction sites in the state.

The Jefferson County Foundation-led coalition claims the West Virginia agency has issued at least 600 enforcement orders to allow the use of stormwater permits that expired in 2019 over the objections of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.

The Clean Water Act authorizes the EPA to review and object to draft stormwater permits issued by any state that is delegated to run its water discharge permitting program. Once the EPA objects formally in writing and includes suggested changes, a state has to redo that permit before issuing it to the applicants.

In a July 21 letter to the EPA, the groups claim the continued use of outdated permits is threatening the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and Ohio River Valley watersheds because stormwater permits include best practices to prevent sediment and other pollutants from being transported into nearby waters.

“Through this letter we ask the EPA to urgently take action to rectify this situation. These irregularities are leaving the water quality of ground and surface water resources of West Virginia at risk from construction projects,” they wrote.

The West Virginia DEP hasn’t rewritten a new permit based on the EPA’s suggested changes, the groups said. The state agency is instead violating the law, they said, by continuing to issue temporary enforcement orders to allow the use of the expired permits.

“These irregularities are allowing the WVDEP to circumvent the normal permitting process and avoid complying with EPA’s requirements,” the groups wrote in their July 21 letter to the agency.

The EPA confirmed receipt of the letter Wednesday from the groups, but didn’t comment on its substance.

Terry Fletcher, a West Virginia DEP spokesman responded Thursday that the allegations the Jefferson County Foundation makes against the agency are the subject of three pending appeals before the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board.

And “the WVDEP doesn’t comment on pending litigation,” Fletcher wrote in Thursday’s email.

(Updated with additional details. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in Washington at asaiyid@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com

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