The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) this week released a report that studies the impact on waterbodies in Virginia that would result from the construction and operation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Noting that the two projects would cross rivers and streams in the state over 1,000 times, the study focuses specifically on erosion and sedimentation threats, as well as threats to drinking water supplies for cities like Norfolk and Roanoke, trout streams, minority communities like Emporia and Franklin, the Chesapeake Bay, and wetlands like the Great Dismal Swamp.
The study, Threats to Water Quality from Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Water Crossings in Virginia, was conducted for NRDC by Downstream Strategies, a consulting firm in Morgantown, WV. Among the threats and likely impacts to waterways in Virginia by the proposed pipelines that are cited in the study are:
- Erosion and sedimentation: Sedimentation of streams would increase because of pipeline construction, even well after construction is complete. While some amount of sedimentation occurs naturally, excess sediment in streams is considered a pollutant, which can impact fish and other aquatic life. In Virginia, impacts would occur in streams that are both pristine and those already impaired by sedimentation.
- Drinking water: Six drinking water assessment areas would be crossed by the two pipelines in Virginia, including over 75 water crossings, some less than one mile from water supply reservoirs and as close as 1.1 miles from water supply intakes.
- Trout waters: Numerous wild, native, and stocked trout streams would be directly impacted by the pipelines, including 73 water crossings deemed highest-concern by Trout Unlimited.
- Environmental justice: The proposed paths of the pipelines cross through or near several disadvantaged communities and could threaten water quality, including drinking water, in these communities.
- The Chesapeake Bay: The ACP’s proposed 864 water crossings in the Chesapeake Bay watershed would make attaining mandated sediment load reductions in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement more difficult.
- Wetlands: Over 315 acres of Virginia wetlands would be impacted by construction of the two pipelines, including the permanent conversion of over 75 acres of forested wetlands to less desirable wetlands.
The study concludes that due to these varied impacts, a more detailed analysis of threats should be performed before final permits are issued for the two pipeline projects.