With Hurricane Florence forecast to make landfall later this week, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) temporarily halted construction on its 303-mile pipeline project on Tuesday and is taking measures to prevent extensive damage to its construction zone.
Forecasters are expecting an unprecedented amount of rainfall from Florence across portions of Virginia, starting late this week and continuing through the weekend. MVP said it is taking “all possible precautions in Virginia” in consultation with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to maintain erosion and sediment controls along the pipeline’s right of way.
Locals, however, worry about the impact heavy rainfall will have on the land. From the tree-clearing phase to the laying of the 42-inch-diameter pipe into trenches, MVP has faced problems with erosion and sediment controls when it rains. In July, the Virginia DEQ served the company with a notice of violation for failing to install proper erosion controls.
But the rains that have slowed construction of the pipeline so far do not compare to the potentially catastrophic rains that Hurricane Florence could unleash on a large part of Virginia, including the MVP construction zone south of Roanoke, Virginia. Last weekend, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the potential impact of Florence.
“MVP has failed with the normal rainfalls we have in this area,” Sandy Schlaudecker, chair of Preserve Montgomery County, Virginia, said in an email to ThinkProgress. “I have great doubts that anything they have done will be enough. We will have people out documenting the damage as soon as it is safe.”
Preserve Montgomery County is a grass roots group that opposes MVP and promotes environmental justice. MVP’s route traverses the northern portion of Montgomery County.
“A previous weather system with significant rainfall has already saturated grounds along several portions of the MVP route and precautionary measures have been implemented to address potential issues,” MVP said Tuesday in a statement.
The $3.5 billion MVP, a partnership headed by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based EQT Corp., starts in West Virginia and travels south of Roanoke and interconnects with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line system at a compressor station in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
MVP said it is continuing to evaluate its construction plans and expects to be fully in service during the fourth quarter 2019.
Earlier this year, MVP experienced significant erosion, with mud from the project flowing onto a road so deep the road had to be closed. “What will happen if there is so much mud on the road that emergency equipment cannot get to a house,” Schlaudecker said.
The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is “extraordinarily concerned” about the potential impacts of Florence on the MVP construction right of way, according to Ann Rogers, a community organizer and director of development for the group.
MVP, its construction contractor Precision Pipeline, and the Virginia DEQ are process oriented, but not outcomes oriented, Rogers said Tuesday in an email to ThinkProgress.
“They think that by installing certain erosion control mechanisms, they have done enough to protect our region’s priceless freshwater resources from being turned into yet another fracked gas wasteland,” Rogers said. “However, the people who live in the MVP construction zone, working with teams in the nonprofit sector, have been actively monitoring the outcomes of MVP’s installed erosion control mechanisms.”
Hundreds of photographs taken this year, according to Rogers, show muddy water downstream of MVP construction sites and mud-inundated roadways.
In preparation for the storm, MVP said its fuel tanks, pipe, and other equipment are being moved from floodplain areas. The company is securing pipe in open trenches, while trenches where pipe has been laid will be backfilled to prevent ponding of water during heavy rains. The company also is installing “enhanced” erosion and sediment controls at road crossings.
In its statement, MVP said, “With the state of emergency now in effect across Virginia, we have diverted all resources in the Commonwealth for environmental maintenance and hurricane preparedness, including the securing of materials and equipment for potential wind impacts.”