State environmental regulators will accept help from citizen monitors now being trained to watch construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for violations of erosion, sedimentation and stormwater laws, a state official said.
David Paylor, who directs the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said Thursday his agency is “absolutely” interested in coordinating with the citizen effort, Mountain Valley Watch, which has begun training sessions for volunteers and lighted up a report tracking website, newrivergeographics.com.
“We’ve only got so many eyes on the ground,” Paylor said after meeting with Mountain Valley Watch leaders and pipeline opponents at the Gainsboro Library in Roanoke.
Both regulators and environmentalists in the room said afterward they thought they forged the beginning of a working relationship during the 90-minute closed-door meeting, which took place as construction accelerates on the planned natural gas pipeline through parts of West Virginia and Virginia.
“I was surprised how civil it was,” said Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, who organized the event.
Diana Christopulos, president of the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition and a pipeline opponent, called the session with Paylor and his director of operations, James Golden, “worthwhile.”
Paylor revealed that DEQ is on the verge of contracting with a private firm for inspectors to keep an eye on construction. There will be at least two contractor inspectors present at each active construction site for a minimum of 10 hours a day, the director said. MVP will reimburse the state for those costs, he added.
In addition, DEQ will assign “a couple” of its inspectors to the project, he said. DEQ, which gave the project a permit to move forward, can issue fines or even halt work over environmental violations, such as actions that risk water quality.
“We are absolutely determined to have this constructed in accordance with all the standards,” Paylor said.