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State Water Protection     The Chief. West Virginia's governing water statute is the Water Pollution Control Act [W. Va. Code ch. 22, art. 11]. Under this act powers reside in the Director of the Division of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Chief of the Office of Water Resources of the DEP, and the Environmental Quality Board. The Office of Water Resources is "designated as the water pollution control agency for this state for all purposes of federal legislation...."

     The Chief " may, after public notice and opportunity to be heard, issue a permit for the discharge or disposition of any pollutant or combination of pollutants into the waters of this state upon condition that such discharge or disposition meets or will meet all applicable state and federal quality standards and effluent limitations...."

     The Director's staff may make field inspections. To compel compliance with permit conditions the Director may revoke, suspend or modify the permit by written order appealable to the Environmental Quality Board. Similarly, where no valid permit exists the Director may issue an appealable order to stop the water pollution or violation of a rule or effluent limitation or to take corrective action. Appealable emergency orders are within the Director's domain. 

     Enforcement. This act creates both civil and criminal penalties. Civil fines may be imposed of up to $10,000 per day for violating "any provision of any permit" issued under authority of the act. Imposition and collection of the penalty must be done by a lawsuit filed in the circuit court of the county in which the violation occurred or "in which the waters thereof are polluted as a result of such violation." The court may issue compliance injunctions. Such a lawsuit "shall take priority on the docket...and shall take precedence over all other civil cases." The criminal penalty is that of a misdemeanor as to imprisonment and fine. 

     Money. The main problem with enforcement by the state of both state and federal clean water statutes and regulations is commitment by state leaders to effective enforcement. In practical terms this means lack of money. According to Chemical & Engineering News 1991 spending figures, West Virginia spends less per resident on environmental protection [air quality, drinking water, hazardous waste, pesticides control, solid waste, and water quality] than any other state.

     By 1998 only $6.5 million of DEP's yearly spending of $112 million was derived from state general revenue funds. On March 10, 1998, the federal EPA Region III Administrator wrote West Virginia's Governor Underwood: "The continuing budgetary shortfall of the water programs, coupled with recent legislative proposals...conspire to pose a serious threat to the ability of the WVDEP to adequately protect the waters of the state...."
Last updated on Tuesday, July 25, 2000