Governor Northam’s commentary last week announced that $411.5 million from the American Rescue Plan will promote clean water across Virginia. While commendable, Northam’s administration should value clean water by first doing no harm. Salem’s headwaters that feed the North and South Forks of the Roanoke River – trout streams, sinkholes, wetlands and Tier 3 waters – are currently under attack by MVP and will suffer imminent, permanent damage. MVP’s 4,000-pound pipes with toxic coatings are currently being embedded into wetlands on Bent Mountain and will never be removed. Northam’s administration, which permitted MVP, has numerous valid reasons to stop work. MVP lacks its water crossing permit and hundreds of violations are well-documented.
MVP is especially harmful to the Roanoke River whose tributaries are crossed over 120 times. Each crossing disturbs the natural watershed. Trees are cut, chemicals, herbicides and sediment from the soil are released and eventually radioactive and methane precipitate will leak into our watershed from inevitable broken pipes in the destabilized landscape on the steepest slopes of the entire 300-mile project. First, do no harm. These harms pose challenges far greater than cleaning sewage from waterways. These chemicals rise more to the level of turning Salem’s Roanoke River watershed into a Superfund site.
No region should have such pollution introduced into its watershed – especially for an unneeded project that will only increase our gas rates from the world’s most-expensive-per-mile pipeline. Concerned citizens and environmental groups have requested a stop-work from courts and numerous agencies: FERC, EPA, US Fish and Wildlife, A.G. Mark Herring, Governor Northam and VADEQ who betrayed its assurance “that water quality would not be harmed.” MVP now wants to bore under many streams – introducing drilling fluid and tons of sediment into streams that supply drinking water.
While federal money is cleaning Virginia waters, Governor Northam is fouling and destroying our clean headwaters with a nonsensical MVP project that even its own investors now see as a threat to their own profits. Salem and Roanoke County deserve protected headwaters and a clean river!