By Tina Alvey, Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BECKLEY — Add the collective voice of the Monroe County Board of Health to the roster of opponents lining up against the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The MVP, which is in the permitting process right now, will stretch from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia when completed, with a path that includes portions of Nicholas, Greenbrier, Monroe and Summers counties. The controversial 42-inch diameter pipeline will transport liquefied natural gas.
In a lengthy open letter, Dr. J. Travis Hansbarger, Monroe County health officer, writes on behalf of the five members of the Board of Health, “The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline poses a significant and substantial risk for the health and welfare of Monroe County residents. The pipeline is designed to pass close to a public school and a long term care center, risking the welfare of some of our most vulnerable residents. Most importantly, our pristine water supplies will be in constant danger of contamination from runoff and turbidity.
“In addition, if this pipeline is allowed to pass through unopposed, this scenario will likely be repeated for northern Monroe County with the second pipeline referred to as the ‘Appalachian Connector.’ We will thus become a permanent corridor for large, super-high pressure pipelines. “Monroe County Board of Health is firmly opposed to the construction and installation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline through any route in Monroe County.”
Hansbarger’s letter cites as its primary concern the potential groundwater contamination via the region’s karst topography during the pipeline’s construction.
“Chemical, fuel and oil spills during construction will go unfiltered into caves, underground streams and drinking water,” Hansbarger predicts, warning, “Groundwater in karst areas can travel as quickly as a few thousand feet to over a mile per day. If surface water is polluted, the groundwater, including wells and springs over several miles, also may become polluted, and sensitive habitats may no longer support sensitive cave species.”
Hansbarger writes that the current proposed MVP route passes within a few hundred yards of the headwaters of Rich Creek, threatening the water supply of the Red Sulphur PSD’s 4,000 customers. Those customers include a nursing home, an assisted living facility, two medical clinics, several day care facilities and three public schools, according to Hansbarger.
His letter also explores the potential threat of a catastrophic rupture of the pipeline, citing “massive explosions” from failures of similar high-pressure lines in Mississippi, Texas and in Brooke County, W.Va. The proposed route for the MVP will take it closer than a mile to James Monroe High School, a long term care facility and two churches, Hansbarger writes.
“Serious questions have been raised about the possibility of evacuation routes for these public facilities should an explosion occur,” he writes.
Another area of concern is the public safety issue posed by adding “heavy traffic from tractor-trailer trucks” to Monroe County’s narrow country roads, Hansbarger writes.
Officials with the Monroe County Board of Health on whose behalf the Feb. 13 letter was written, according to Hansbarger, are Petrie Brown, chair; Janet Caulkins, vice chair; and members Shirley Dixon, Shelby Jennings and Sue Clewell.