- Associated Press - Saturday, August 27, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia regulators are sticking with their proposal to change the way water-quality standards are calculated.

A document made public Friday insists the decision “does not automatically” translate into an increase in the amount of cancer-causing chemicals allowed to be discharged into state rivers and streams, The Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/2bHSM2L) reported.

The state Department of Environmental Protection also revealed that it’s dropping another proposal that would have eliminated a requirement for public notices in newspapers for some types of air pollution permits.

The DEP’s decisions on both of the rule changes were filed with the Secretary of State’s Office on Friday, along with other annual agency rule changes. The filing was to meet a legal deadline for the rules to be submitted for legislative review next year.

The agency’s water-quality proposal has significant opposition from the environmental community and from organized labor. The Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation has said it will fight the proposed change, after defeating it several times in the past and dubbing it the “Cancer Creek” bill.

The DEP proposal would have the agency calculate water pollution limits for cancer-causing chemicals using an average-flow figure - called the “harmonic mean” - rather than the state’s current practice of using a low-flow figure.

The change has long been sought by the West Virginia Manufacturers Association and the Chamber of Commerce.

During a DEP public hearing in July, no one spoke in favor of the change, and citizens turned out to complain that the move would allow more cancer-causing chemicals to be discharged into rivers and streams.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman has acknowledged that using the “harmonic mean” could allow more carcinogens to be permitted, but in a formal “response to comments” made public Friday, agency officials said that’s not necessarily the case.

“While the switch to harmonic mean theoretically allows more pollutants to be discharged (more mixing/dilution), actual permitting practices limit the amount of mixing to only what is needed to meet water quality standards at the end of mixing,” the DEP document said. “Stated another way, changing to harmonic mean for carcinogens, pollutants does not automatically allow a tripling or higher of the amount of carcinogens being discharged.”

In response to one citizen comment, that West Virginia has enough cancer already and doesn’t need more pollution, the DEP said such comments “are greatly appreciated and thoroughly considered.”

On the air permit rule proposal, the DEP had faced criticism from citizen groups and the West Virginia Press Association when it suggested eliminating two types of newspaper public notices that currently must be published for “minor sources” seeking air pollution emissions permits from the DEP.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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