I am writing to express my concern with the potential for Mountain Valley Pipeline’s construction to enable COVID-19 coronavirus expansion.
More than 250 people have died as the virus expands rapidly. Confirmed cases in the U.S. doubled over two days to more than 16,000 on March 20. Yet I take some solace in knowing that our area so far has few confirmed cases and that so many here are taking precautions by staying at home, social distancing, limiting travel, etc.
But spring is here and I am concerned that Mountain Valley Pipeline may resume construction in a way that accelerates virus expansion. In recent years, MVP has brought hundreds of workers from other parts of the country into this area. We know that people who contract the virus are often contagious prior to symptoms and therefore unaware of their role in spreading it; that many US areas are experiencing virus outbreaks; and that travel by infected persons is a means by which the virus expands. As I write, more than one-third of the nation’s cases with known causes are due to travel; among those are two close to the Roanoke area, one in Mercer County, West Va. and another in the West Piedmont Health District. Also as I write, nearly 1/4 of the nation’s population is under state-level restrictions for even local travel (restricted except for essentials such as grocery shopping). The president has declared a national emergency and Governor Northam has declared a statewide emergency in response to COVID-19’s rapid expansion.
Pipeline workers work hard, I have nothing against them, but I hope MVP will act to protect our area from increased coronavirus risk by not bringing large numbers of workers here from other areas. The company’s failure to maintain environmental controls does not give me great faith that it will consider our interest in maintaining local public health. Virginia public-health authorities and the governor should take steps to ensure that Mountain Valley Pipeline’s construction does not cause virus expansion here in the Blacksburg-Roanoke area or in other parts of Virginia.
CARL E. ZIPPER