Citizen Groups Challenge WVDEP’s Flawed Attempt to Weaken Water Quality

March 27, 2013


CONTACTS:     Cindy Rank, WV Highlands Conservancy, 304-924-5802

Angie Rosser, WV Rivers Coalition, 304-637-7201 

Charleston, WV (March 27, 2013) – At today’s public hearing, WVDEP will hear arguments from citizens on the lack of scientific justification and consideration of the public interest in its attempt to pass an emergency rule that would allow drastically higher levels of dissolved aluminum into West Virginia streams. Exposure to aluminum at concentrations in the hundreds of micrograms/liter has been shown to stunt and kill aquatic organisms, including algae and fish. The proposed rule would result in a 13-fold and 46-fold increase over the current criteria for acute and chronic aluminum toxicity to aquatic life respectively, raising serious concerns over the future health of West Virginia waterways.

WVDEP cites that the revised criteria needs to be adopted as an emergency rule instead of going through the regular rulemaking process, which fails to adhere to public participation requirements of the Clean Water Act.  Groups’ submitted comments state there is no emergency that justifies the promulgation of this rule.  “The only emergency seems to be that our water is too clean and DEP believes that they are therefore somehow required to help a small number of polluters avoid the cost of treating their toxic waste.” said Jim Kotcon, Conservation Chair for the West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club.

The lack of scientific study on the impact of the weakened criteria on aquatic ecosystems in West Virginia is of primary concern. Groups working to protect water quality contend that WVDEP must withdraw the proposal and carry out more extensive scientific research justifying water hardness as a mitigating factor in aluminum toxicity. “DEP is rushing this rule through without the scientific evidence to assure aquatic life and public health is protected,” said Don Garvin, Legislative Coordinator for the WV Environmental Council.

If adopted some streams may benefit from this change, but many more will suffer further impairment. Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the WV Rivers Coalition noted, “The public has an interest in being able to use and enjoy healthy rivers and streams. There’s too much at stake to adopt such a drastic change without scientific certainty that we’re adequately protecting all headwater streams.”

Citizen’s groups submitted comments: comments.pdf

Report by Dr. Carys Mitchelmore: Summary.pdf


About WVDEP Public Hearing:

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Water and Waste Management have scheduled a public hearing and comment period on emergency rule changes to 47CSR2, “Requirements Governing Water Quality Standards.”  The DEP proposes an emergency rule to revise the dissolved aluminum criteria and human health Category A beryllium criterion in 47CSR2. The hearing will be held at DEP’s Charleston headquarters, 601 57th Street S.E., Charleston, WV 25304, in the Coopers Rock Training Room on March 27th at 6:00 p.m.  Copies of the emergency rule and other rule documents are available from the Secretary of State’s office or from the agency website

About League of Women Voters of WV:

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

About Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC):

OVEC, based in Huntington WV, is dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the environment through education, grassroots organizing, leadership development and coalition building.

About Sierra Club WV Chapter:

Sierra Club WV Chapter enjoys, explores and protects the environment and natural resources of West Virginia. 

About WV Environmental Council:

The mission of the West Virginia Environmental Council is to facilitate communication and cooperation among citizens in promoting environmental protection in West Virginia, to assist in organizing grass roots groups, to facilitate interaction among established environmental organizations, and to correspond with all appropriate local, state, and federal agencies involved in the management of West Virginia’s environment.

About WV Highlands Conservancy:

Working since 1965 for the conservation of West Virginia’s natural resources. Publishers of the Highlands Voice and the Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide.

About WV Rivers Coalition (WVRC):

WVRC’s mission is to “seek the conservation and restoration of West Virginia’s exceptional rivers and streams”.  WVRC values clean water as the foundation of life and believes that all people should respect and be able to enjoy clean West Virginia rivers and streams. Learn more at