CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman said his agency will ask state lawmakers during next year’s regular session to increase the restrictions on the Kanawha River. The rule submitted called for the Kanawha to carry a Category A designation.
“The state of West Virginia has had that category A designation for just about every stream except this 72 mile stretch of the Kanawha River,” Huffman said.
The designation means the river will be managed in the future as a drinking water source. It’s increases the threshold for a pollution permit. The level of pollution allowed under any future discharge would be lower than the present restrictions. However, Huffman said while somewhat controversial, he didn’t think it would be a burden on any existing companies.
“To the best of our knowledge all of the discharges along the Kanawha River today are meeting those limits already,” he said. “There wouldn’t be any drastic changes anyone would have to make.”
Huffman said the designation is a big step forward for the state of the Environment.
“Since the river is clean enough now to designate as Category A, we want to keep it that way,”he said. “That’s a big deal and it may be somewhat controversial, but I think that’s important that the waters of the state be protected to that more stringent level.”
The designation will also make it easier for West Virginia American Water Company to install a secondary intake on the Kanawha River. The idea was discussed after after the January 2014 water emergency. Presently the Elk River is the drinking water source for Charleston and to add a second intake from the Kanawha would require a pipe installed for many miles under the present designation.
“Drinking water could be drawn from the Kanawha River and used by the public,” said Huffman. “That’s a by product of the discussion and certainly when these discussions were happening it caused us to look at it. It’s just the right thing to do. It’s the last waterway in the state that doesn’t have that designation.”