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Water Monitoring Plans for Pipelines

water quality monitoring pipelinesDEQ, in partnership with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), are conducting water quality monitoring at a number of proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline stream crossings before, during and after pipeline construction activities. Monitoring includes identification of benthic macroinvertebrate and fish community assemblages; quantitative physical habitat assessment; and real-time, continuous water quality monitoring for turbidity, temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen and pH.

To establish an inventory of baseline, pre-construction water quality conditions in the streams of interest, monitoring began in the fall of 2017. Scientists will also conduct monitoring during and after pipeline construction activities. The water quality monitoring data will enable DEQ to evaluate physical, chemical, and aquatic life conditions over time at the identified project stream crossings.

The agency’s monitoring plan provides more information on site locations and the process for site prioritization. A summary of current data is included below.

Real Time Water Quality Monitoring: The USGS has installed real-time water quality monitoring stations upstream and downstream of six stream crossings along the MVP route and seven stream crossings along the ACP. Readings of turbidity, temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen and pH are taken every five minutes, and all data are available online to the public within 1-2 hours of collection. DEQ will review all data during construction activities and utilize the real-time capability to direct inspection resources as appropriate.

USGS data for individual sites along the MVP route

USGS data for individual sites along the ACP route

brook trout in a handFish Community Assessment: Fish assemblages are of special interest to many citizens. Informative fish community measures include the number of species present (for warm water streams), the abundance of trout (for cold water streams) and the presence of deformities and lesions on specimens. These measures provide an indication of the overall ecological health of streams. VCU and DEQ biologists completed fish community assessment monitoring during the fall of 2017 to establish background conditions. Follow-up monitoring will occur in the first fall season following the completion of construction activities, and in additional years (during fall), as needed. The fall monitoring results are available at the links below.

Fall 2017: Fish assemblages at MVP monitoring sites

Fall 2017: Fish assemblages at ACP monitoring sites

Benthic macroinvertebrates and physical habitat: Benthic macroinvertebrates are bottom-dwelling animals that lack backbones and can be seen without magnification. Benthic macroinvertebrates are the most commonly used assemblage for assessing ecological integrity and the only assemblage used for formal assessment in Virginia. Virginia’s Stream Condition Index includes community measures that provide indicators of stream health, including the number of different kinds of benthic macroinvertebrates observed, and the number of sensitive types of benthic macroinvertebrates observed (e.g. mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies).

Physical habit assessments provide a detailed evaluation of the stream bottom. In the streams of interest, coarse bottom material (e.g. rocks and logs) that is free of fine sediment is essential for supporting healthy plant and animal communities.

Physical habitat and benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring occurred during fall 2017 at the six MVP and seven ACP stream crossings. Samples were collected upstream and downstream of the crossings. The results will be available in Spring 2018. DEQ biologists will complete follow-up monitoring in Spring 2018 and again during the first fall or spring assessment window after construction activities are complete. Monitoring thereafter will be completed as needed.

Learn more about the Water Quality Monitoring Program.

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

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