DEQ orders work stopped on Mountain Valley Pipeline section

Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project led a tour of the denuded, muddy construction site in June at Four Corners Farm in Franklin County. (Mason Adams/ For the Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on Friday issued a stop-work instruction for a two-mile section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County after an inspection found that the company hasn’t been adequately controlling erosion.

DEQ Director David Paylor said in a statement that the department was “appalled that construction priorities and deadline pressures would ever rise above the proper and appropriate use of erosion control measures.”

An inspection Thursday found that Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, a joint venture headed by EQM Midstream Partners, had failed to construct and maintain sediment and erosion control measures in line with site plans and that some existing controls weren’t working correctly.

As a result, DEQ determined that “an imminent and substantial adverse impact to water quality is likely to occur as a result of land-disturbing activities.”

Under the order, all land disturbance activities except those related to installing and maintaining erosion control devices must cease until DEQ approves a resumption of work.

Friday’s action is the first stop-work instruction issued by DEQ for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but the project has been dogged by complaints of environmental violations over the past year.

In December, Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General and DEQ filed a lawsuit against the pipeline company for repeatedly failing to control sediment and stormwater runoff in Craig, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery and Roanoke counties. The suit claimed that these failures led to impacts on waterways and roads. And filings by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission show that the company has struggled to manage erosion over the course of construction.

The State Water Control Board, which issued a water quality certification for the project in 2017, finding there was a “reasonable assurance” the project wouldn’t violate state water quality standards, opted not to revoke the permit in a contentious meeting earlier this year. Pipeline opponents, environmental groups and landowners have been a regular presence at water board meetings, urging the DEQ and the board to act on reported repeated erosion and sediment violations.

Pipeline opponents and at least one state lawmaker have urged the DEQ to use its new stop work authority for much of the past year. DEQ has said, for the most part, MVP has promptly resolved erosion and sediment problems.