Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction is One Muddy Mess

by Duane Nichols on May 23, 2018

Main roadway access covered in mud

Construction halted at Mountain Valley Pipeline work site following severe erosion in Franklin County, VA

From an Article by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times, May 20, 2018

State regulators have put a stop to construction of part of the Mountain Valley Pipeline swamped by a rainstorm, saying work cannot continue until proper erosion control measures are established.

Crews were using heavy equipment to cut trees and clear land along the natural gas pipeline’s right of way in Franklin County when heavy rains Thursday night and Friday morning swept away much of the soil they had unearthed.

Both lanes of nearby Cahas Mountain Road were covered by up to eight inches of mud. “It’s clearly unacceptable,” Ann Regn, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said Sunday.

According to both DEQ and Mountain Valley officials, none of the mudflow reached streams, where it could have done the most damage. Nonetheless, the agency is investigating how check dams and other erosion control measures failed to prevent the mess.

Environmental regulators received several calls last week, before the rain started, from members of the public who were concerned that heavy equipment being used to remove trees and clear a 125-foot swath for pipeline construction was exposing the land to potential runoff problems.

Although Mountain Valley crews had erosion control devices in place, “there were some things that completely disappeared” after the rains, including concrete barriers, Regn said.

“Initial reviews indicate the controls were installed properly; however, the circumstances appear unusual and an ultimate cause is under investigation,” Mountain Valley spokeswoman Natalie Cox wrote in an email Friday.

“Upon learning of the issue, MVP crews promptly began remediation activities,” Cox wrote. “The project team remains committed to the safe and responsible construction of this important underground infrastructure project.”

Opponents have predicted that building a 303-mile buried pipeline along steep mountain slopes will dislodge sediment, which can contaminate private wells and public water supplies if it is allowed to enter nearby streams and wetlands.

Already, regulators have pointed to problems with erosion control in Wetzel County, West Virginia, where the pipeline will start a path that will take it through Southwest Virginia before connecting with an existing pipeline in Pittsylvania County.

On April 25, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation against Mountain Valley after an inspection found sediment-laden water that had flowed beyond the perimeters of where a compressor station is under construction.

Out-of-control runoff from a hill on a second site caused part of the slope to give way, according to records filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

And an environmental firm that is monitoring pipeline work for the U.S. Forest Service documented inadequate maintenance on two access roads in the Jefferson National Forest that are being used by Mountain Valley officials. The report noted deep ruts in the road and noncompliance with erosion and sediment control requirements.

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law that gave DEQ the authority to order work on the pipeline to cease immediately if there has been, or is likely to be, a “substantial adverse impact to water quality.”

The suspension of construction in Franklin County over the weekend did not rise to that level, with Regn saying that state and Mountain Valley officials agreed informally that stabilization of the area must happen before regular work can proceed.

Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, said he believes it’s time for VA-DEQ to issue a full stop-work order. “I think it’s well past time,” Hurst said Sunday. “For a lot of people, they think it’s too late already — a day late and a dollar short.”

Hurst made his comments after attending a rally where about 50 people decried the Forest Service’s decision to cut off food and water to a protester who is blocking the pipeline’s route through Giles County.

Known by her Appalachian Trail nickname “Nutty,” the woman has been camped since March 28 in a platform suspended from a 50-foot pole erected in the middle of a construction access road.

“Shame USFS,” read one of the posters held by members of the crowd, which gathered outside of Forest Service headquarters in Roanoke County. “Feed Nutty Now,” another sign stated.

Since the Forest Service cut off supplies being sent up to the woman from a support team camped nearby, she has been living off a reserve of energy bars, applesauce and rainwater collected from a tarp that covers her tiny living space.

Last week, a lawsuit filed by the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville raised questions about Nutty’s treatment.The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a physician who became concerned about her medical condition and hiked nearly two miles to help her – only to be denied access by Forest Service law enforcement officers who have cordoned off the protest site.

In a recent statement posted to the Facebook page of Appalachians Against Pipelines, Nutty wrote about her opposition to the industrial and commercial forces that seek to destroy nature in the name of progress, and the government entities that support them.

“To hell with all that,” she wrote. “To hell with comfort if it comes at the cost of complicity.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mirijana Beram May 23, 2018 at 10:48 am

Rover was shut down TWICE over the last year in Doddridge County because of Precision Pipelines workmanship. Major sedimentation issues!

And, it took them longer than any other operation that I have seen to seed bare soil. Even the seeding in some areas where they used helicopters was a disaster. Folks in tree stands were seeded, pick up trucks were seeded as well as people’s decks… These are just a few that I heard of.

I saw first hand the MVP start point in Wetzel County on Monday. The workmanship at the site was as crappy as any of the sites that I have witnessed in Doddridge County. I just hope that no one gets hurt or killed on this job.

If Precision Pipeline is doing the work for this MVP line, any one in its path is in for a world of hurt. This is the same company that did and is still doing work on the Rover Pipeline in Doddridge County. They have been here for over a year and NO SITE has been completely reclaimed. Erosion/sedimentation issues have been horrendous and continue.

Wishing you all a ton of luck, Mirijana


Duane Nichols May 25, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Reported from West Virginia yesterday at 3:28 pm. I don’t have the details yet. This is big news!

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has suspended its verification that the MVP Project may proceed under and will comply with Nationwide Permit-12 (NWP-12) within West Virginia.

The West Virginia Water Quality Certification for NWP-12 requires that: “Individual stream crossings must be completed in a continuous, progressive manner and within 72 hours during seasonal normal or below normal stream flow conditions. . . . All stream activities shall be completed as rapidly as possible.”

MVP requested that FERC Staff grant permission to take longer than 72 hours for three stream crossings in West Virginia. In response, the Corps issued the notice suspending its NWP-12 verification for the MVP Project. The Corps will now review MVP Project’s compliance with the 72-hour requirement in West Virginia. It’s not clear how long this will take, or what the overall effect on pipeline construction will be.

>>>>> Kirk Bowers, P.E., Pipelines Program Coordinator, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club

106 George Rogers Road
Charlottesville, VA 22911
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