If you’ve ever seen dirt tracked off a construction lot or mud running off a building site after a heavy rain, you can understand why it’s important to control this pollution. Muddy construction runoff can quickly foul local streams and rivers, smothering fish, clams, oysters, underwater plants, and other aquatic life. The dirty water also increases the cost of treating drinking water for localities downstream.
That’s why controlling construction runoff with sturdy erosion fences and other good management practices is so important for water quality. Runoff pollution is one the most serious problems facing Virginia waterways and the Chesapeake Bay; in fact, it’s among the few pollution sources getting worse, not better.
In Virginia, the state requires that builders and developers get what’s called a construction general permit before they begin a construction job. Every five years, Virginia re-issues this permit, ostensibly to update requirements and ensure that builders use the latest, most effective runoff-prevention practices.
But here’s the rub: Under the proposed new permit, the runoff prevention plans will no longer be available for citizen review. In a serious departure from existing law, this new construction general permit would allow contractors to keep their pollution prevention plans out of public view and secret.
This lack of transparency is a serious step backward. After all, Virginia’s streams, rivers, and Chesapeake Bay belong to all of us. We citizens can help protect our streams by alerting local officials when contractors aren’t following their runoff prevention plans – IF citizens have access to the plans. Public access is critical to holding builders and developers accountable.
What are builders and Virginia regulators trying to hide? If you are wondering about that, too, tell the state you object to this new secrecy provision in the proposed Virginia permit. Insist that Virginia protect the public’s waterways by maintaining public access to builders’ runoff prevention plans. Click here, or write:
Regulatory Coordinator, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
203 Governor Street, Suite 302
Richmond, Virginia 23219
The deadline to comment is June 7.
Remember, they’re our rivers and streams, and it’s our right and responsibility to protect them. That will be hard to do, however, if the government deliberately hides pollution requirements from public view.
Chuck Epes Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Photos: Top, Krista Schlyer, iLCP; others, CBF.