by KATE SHUNNEY
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved one of the permits needed for the Division of Highways to move ahead with construction of the U.S. 522 bypass.
Division of Water and Waste Management Acting Director Katheryn Emery said in a September 28 letter that the DOH now has a NPDES General Permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activities (CSW GP).
In order to get DEP approval, the Division of Highways had to submit plans for how their contractors would manage the water which will run off construction sites as the 3.1-mile bypass is being built. Water runoff from excavation and construction sites can pollute or overwhelm local streams or rivers with dirt or mud. Highway officials must prove to the DEP that they have plans in place to capture or divert runoff so that doesn’t happen.
The Stormwater permit was issued on September 28 under special conditions, said Emery. Those conditions are that the Division of Highways will submit a “modified application” that lays out a complete Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and a Groundwater Protection Plan (GWP) “with all required maps, site plans, design details, supporting calculations, construction details and all information necessary to demonstrate that the contractor’s SWPPP and GPP satisfied all conditions of the CSW GP,” Emery noted in a letter.
DEP officials have said this modified application must be sent to them no less than 60 days prior to the “anticipated” construction date.
DEP officials don’t guarantee they’ll issue a final stormwater permit within 60 days of the highway department’s application.
“[N]o earth disturbance associated with the project may occur prior to the contractor and WVDOH obtaining full permit registration approval as co-permitees from the Director,” Emery noted in her letter.
As part of their process reviewing the bypass stormwater plan, DEP officials accepted public comments, both written and oral, last fall and winter. A summary of 67 comments, and the DEP’s answers to them, are attached to the agency’s notice about the stormwater permit.
The top comment to the DEP about stormwater coming off bypass construction work related to the increased risk of flooding in the Berkeley Springs area, which is already prone to flash flood events.
Several commentors said they were worried that construction activities – particularly the moving of soil – would speed up storm water and let it hit local streams and the downtown area more quickly.
Bypass construction will disturb 175 acres of land during grading and paving. The four-lane highway will convert soil and forest areas into 32.12 acres of paved surfaces, which also adds to storm runoff.
DEP officials note that during construction 28 sediment basins are planned for the areas being disturbed.
“The primary purpose of sediment basins is to prevent sediment from entering adjacent streams by detaining runoff and allowing suspended solids to settle out prior to the runoff leaving a site but with the dry storage associated with these structured will prolong the flow time of runoff and reduce the peak discharge,” the DEP said.
Some commentors asked who would take care of drainage basins into the future, after construction is complete. DEP officials said the Division of Highways would bear that responsibility.
Other comments asked how construction impacts on local wetlands would be managed, and how local soils would be considered in calculating drainage of stormwater, and restored after the highway is built.
DEP officials said bypass contractors will make efforts to “minimize soil compaction and preserve topsoil where feasible.”
According to the DEP, existing stormwater controls like the county’s flood-control dams are not incorporated into the Division of Highways’ stormwater plan.
Residents who want to appeal the stormwater management permit for the bypass project can file a Notice of Appeal to the Environmental Quality Board through October 28. Reference WV Permit WV0115924 in any appeal documents.