West Virginia Conservation Agency  •  1900 Kanawha Blvd. E. •  Charleston, WV 25305  •  304-558-2204
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Growing public awareness and concern for controlling water pollution led to enactment of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972. As amended in 1977, this law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act. The Act established the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States. It gave EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs, such as setting wastewater standards for industry. The Clean Water Act also continued requirements to set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. The Act made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained under its provisions. It also funded the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program and recognized the need for planning to address the critical problems posed by nonpoint source pollution.

Subsequent enactments modified some of the earlier Clean Water Act provisions. Revisions in 1981 streamlined the municipal construction grants process, improving the capabilities of treatment plants built under the program. Changes in 1987 phased out the construction grants program, replacing it with the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund, more commonly known as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This new funding strategy addressed water quality needs by building on EPA-State partnerships.

Over the years, many other laws have changed parts of the Clean Water Act. Title I of the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act of 1990, for example, put into place parts of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978, signed by the U.S. and Canada, where the two nations agreed to reduce certain toxic pollutants in the Great Lakes. That law required EPA to establish water quality criteria for the Great Lakes addressing 29 toxic pollutants with maximum levels that are safe for humans, wildlife, and aquatic life. It also required EPA to help the States implement the criteria on a specific schedule.

Safe Drinking Water Act

The Safe Drinking Water Act was established to protect the quality of drinking water in the U.S. This law focuses on all waters actually or potentially designed for drinking use, whether from above ground or underground sources.

The Act authorized EPA to establish safe standards of purity and required all owners or operators of public water systems to comply with primary (health-related) standards. State governments, which assume this power from EPA, also encourage attainment of secondary standards (nuisance-related).

West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act (WPCA)

The principal water quality law in West Virginia is the West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act (WPCA). The WPCA designates the West Virginia Office of Water Resources (OWR), within the Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) as the water pollution control agency for the State. The OWR is charged with preserving the integrity of the State's water resources. These water resources include streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and groundwater. Farm ponds are statutorily excluded from the definition of State waters and water resources.

The DEP is the lead agency for water quality and control of water pollution. The DEP is authorized by statute to control pollution, conduct investigations, make arrests, execute warrants, issue orders, issue certifications required under the Federal Clean Water Act, and enforce the State environmental acts. The DEP may enter at any reasonable time upon any property in order to conduct surveys, investigations, and studies. The OWR administers programs to control water pollution including managing groundwater, wetlands, and non-coal dam projects. The OWR implements the WPCA, the West Virginia Groundwater Protection Act (GPA), the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and the Federal CWA. The OWR is the State permitting office for activities that may impact water Quality. Any person may request notice regarding a decision by OWR to deny or issue a specific permit. The request must be in writing and within a specified time frame.

West Virginia Anti-degradation

The Clean Water Act establishes guidelines for States to regulate discharges into State waters. The State also maintains water quality standards to ensure that water uses are protected. The Clean Water Act also mandates that States develop an anti-degradation policy to further protect waters.

The anti-degradation implementation rule basically provides for an additional step to be added to the Department of Environmental Protection's water pollution control permit process. The revised permit process will provide for more protection of State waters through expanded collection and review of existing water quality and water uses, additional emphasis on alternatives, the inclusion of socioeconomic justifications and expanded intergovernmental reviews and public participation.

All activities that affect West Virginia's waters will undergo some form of anti-degradation implementation. Industries or activities that have a point source discharge will be reviewed based on the level of protection required of the stream they discharge to.

Nonpoint source activities must ensure that best management practices have been installed and implemented.

Levels of protection

All waters are assigned to specific tiers depending upon the level of protection necessary to maintain high quality and/or existing uses. The higher the tier, the more stringent the requirements are for protection. West Virginia Categorizes waters into the following tiers:

Tier 1
Maintains and protects existing uses of a water body and the water quality conditions necessary to support such uses.

Tier 2
Maintains and protects "high quality" waters - water bodies where the level of water quality exceeds levels necessary to support recreation and wildlife and the propagation and maintenance of fish and other aquatic life.

Tier 3
Maintains and protects water quality in outstanding national resource waters.

Tier 3 Waters
Waters placed in the Tier 3 category are known as "outstanding national resource waters". These include waters in Federal Wilderness Areas, specifically designated federal waters, and high quality waters or naturally reproducing trout streams in state parks, national parks and national forests. Guidance pertaining to Tier 3 waters can be found in Series 2A Designation of Tier 3 Waters - Title 47CSR2A

To learn more go to: http://www.dep.wv.gov/WWE/Programs/wqs/Pages/default.aspx


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