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DEQ's Response to COVID-19 banner

In response to COVID-19 health concerns, DEQ has implemented a number of precautionary measures for the well-being of staff, volunteers, stakeholders and the general public. We will be posting updates to our daily operations on this page. 

DEQ Offices

Social distancing at DEQ’s central and regional offices came into effect on March 16 in response to the COVID-19 emergency. While all DEQ offices remain open, we kindly ask that you call ahead and refrain from in-person visits if possible. Please check with the DEQ office in your region on how to best contact staff.

Public Meetings and Hearings

To address COVID-19 health concerns, DEQ may, when appropriate and necessary, make use of electronic communications to conduct public meetings, or public hearings, during Governor Northam’s state of emergency declaration. DEQ will notify the public of all meeting updates on the DEQ public calendar and the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall.

Essential Businesses

DEQ staff have heard from several stakeholders with questions about which sectors of the regulated community are considered essential businesses. The only business sectors affected are the ones identified in Governor Northam’s executive orders. If the order does not call out a specific sector, the order does not affect them.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has created guidance and Frequently Asked Questions, which are available here: https://www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/faq/.

Field Activities

Over the last few weeks, DEQ has developed protocols to safely resume additional field and inspection work. DEQ began implementing new safety protocols and resumed field activities on Monday, May 4.  As part of these protocols, the agency purchased cloth face coverings that will be worn by staff when working in public. Face masks and other disinfection supplies have been distributed to DEQ employees. 

Compliance and Enforcement

  • DEQ recognizes that the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting the ability of some regulated entities to comply with requirements, statutes, regulations and permit conditions. DEQ will exercise reasonable enforcement discretion within its authority when deciding whether to pursue potential violations caused by pandemic-related disruptions. For more information on DEQ’s compliance and enforcement processes in response to COVID-19, please click here.
  • DEQ has issued a waiver to Dominion Energy to extend the requirement for holding a public meeting for upcoming permits by 90 days. 

Pipelines 

DEQ will continue to investigate natural gas pipeline construction concerns. Monitoring, inspections and field activities will continue. The Mountain Valley Pipeline project will be inspected daily by the agency’s contract staff.

Pollution Response Program

DEQ’s Pollution Response Program continues to respond to environmental emergencies and reports of significant pollution incidents. If you need to report an environmental emergency (such as a hazmat  incident, oil spill or fish kill), please call 911 or the Virginia Emergency Operations Center anytime at 800-468-8892. All other pollution incidents may be reported via DEQ’s online reporting form.

Stormwater Construction Permits

Construction operators must still meet the requirements for their stormwater permits. Self-inspections that are required for Virginia’s stormwater construction permits are not suspended. If earth-moving work ceases on a construction site, then stabilization measures must be applied in accordance with the requirements of the permit and inspection reports must be submitted. DEQ compliance staff continue to monitor these requirements under the Virginia’s stormwater construction general permit. 

DEQ has advised local governments that administer Virginia’s erosion and sediment control program, some of which serve also as a Virginia stormwater authority, to exercise judgement during this pandemic and determine the best course of action for their own locality.

Wastewater Treatment 

  • As part of their discharge permits, wastewater treatment facilities are required to have a specified level of licensed operators and staffing on duty to ensure approved discharge limits are met and public safety is maintained. If a facility’s operations change or they expect an interruption in service, they are required to contact DEQ.
  • DEQ is recommending the public not flush wipes of any kind – even those labeled “flushable” – to avoid sewage blockages and keep wastewater facilities running smoothly.

Solid Waste and Regulated Medical Waste Management

  • DEQ is working with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and health care facilities to keep the public safe.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are no new requirements for COVID-19 contaminated waste. CDC and OSHA recommend COVID-19 waste continue to be managed in accordance with Virginia’s existing procedures for solid and regulated medical waste (RMW). For more information, click here.   
  • In accordance with Governor Northam’s Executive Order 51, and with concurrence of the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, DEQ Director David Paylor has waived the permit requirement for offsite COVID-19 RMW storage facilities operated by VDH to allow the agency to effectively operate drive-through test centers. Certain storage conditions still apply and are outlined in the full memo here.

Air Programs

  • The Air Check Virginia vehicle emissions inspection program for drivers in Northern Virginia remains operational. Please avoid in-person visits and call 703-583-3900 between 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. for assistance.
  • The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has extended vehicle registrations that expire in March, April and May by  90 days, those that expire in June by  60 days , and those that expire in July by 30 days, which also provides Air Check customers additional time to complete their emissions inspections. Most emissions inspection facilities are open, but please call your specific facility in advance to confirm. 
  • DEQ air monitors are operating. Virginians can sign up for daily ozone and particulate pollution forecasts to help protect their respiratory health. Contact the Office of Air Quality Monitoring at 804-527-5178 for data requests.

Management of Bulk Waste Milk

During the COVID-19 outbreak, dairy operations may experience delays or disruptions in supply chains. DEQ has identified a list of management options that can be implemented to prevent environmental impacts or a catastrophic loss in cases where bulk waste milk must be disposed. The management options are outlined here.

Emergency Animal Mortality Management for Non-Disease Scenarios

DEQ and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have identified management options for potential emergency poultry and swine depopulation or mortality events in non-disease scenarios, such as supply chain interruptions due to the effects of COVID-19 on meat processing plants. For more information, click here

 

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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