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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

West Virginia (Section 319I - 1994)

The focus of West Virginia's nonpoint source program is to develop and implement projects to reduce pollutant loads from agriculture, silviculture, resource - extraction, and construction. The State Division of Environmental Protection's Office of Water Resources, the lead agency, works with other state agencies to assess nonpoint source impacts. These include the Division of Environmental Protection-Resource Extraction, Soil Conservation Agency, and Division of Forestry. The Office of Water Resources is also responsible for the Clean Lakes Program, the nonpoint source assessment process, and the ambient water monitoring program, which allows for data transfer and communication among the related programs. Program components include education, technical assistance, financial incentives, demonstrations, and regulation.

NPS Training Center Proves an Overwhelming Success

According to West Virginia, the best way to reduce nonpoint source pollution is by educating land users in how to apply resource management techniques. The state's theory proved valid when it opened the Nonpoint Source Resource Management Training Center in February 1992. In its first year of operation, this successful center trained more than 3,000 people, including some from - outside the state--and its popularity continues. The center was originally intended to hold courses at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley, the location of the Point Source Environmental Training Center. However, demand has been so great that courses are moving from place to place across the state, aided by volunteer professional instructors and corporate donations of equipment. The center is administered by the West Virginia State-Soil Conservation Agency, the organization charged with educating land users and the general public about nonpoint source BMPs. Local, state, and federal agencies work together to develop and teach the training courses, which are geared to the level and needs of specific groups. These might include oil and gas operators, farmers, construction contractors, loggers, landowners, or the general public. Private industry representatives serve on training advisory committees, ensuring that instruction includes state-of-the-art information and equipment.

Students pay no fee for the courses on the nonpoint side of the training center. They are supported by a 1992 U.S. EPA education grant of $5,000. An FY 1991 section 319 grant of $65,000 and a state matching grant of $43,333 was used to open the center. An FY 1992 EPA education grant of $15,470 will fund resource material, two environmental seminars, and other education and information programs.

In addition to courses, the center sponsors a voluntary certification program for contractors and a mini- - certification program for oil and gas operators. The center's most popular course is a sediment and erosion control workshop. A nutrient management course might draw as many as 200 participants. While one-day classes are the norm, the center recently held two- and three-day courses to train the 2,500 employees of the state highway division. The center also provided a two-day training session for some 60 U.S. National Guard engineers and equipment operators, integrating the BMP course with their Army training.

The combined Point Source-NPS Training Center loans out its comprehensive library of water quality training materials, reference materials, technical manuals, instructional videotapes, and slide shows. The center also loans educational materials for elementary and junior high school instruction. The library continually updates and expands it holdings. The center's computerized database maintains information on materials and suppliers of products used in BMPs to aid the general public.

Coalition Tackles Acid Mine Drainage

West Virginia has identified acid mine drainage (AMD) from abandoned coal mines as the single most damaging nonpoint source impact to its waters. In many areas, aquatic life has been virtually eliminated with little chance of recovery unless the sources are cleaned up. Approximately 3,000 stream miles have been affected by this pollution source alone.

The Middle Fork River watershed was a problem area. AMD from abandoned coal mines had eradicated fish from the lower 24 miles of this beautiful and once popular trout stream. AMD to the Middle Fork River creates low pH conditions that damage municipal, industrial, and agricultural water supplies and corrode the structure of boats, culverts, and bridges.

AMD has also contributed to declining recreational use. A lack of fish has decreased the recreational value of Audra State Park. Facilities and aquatic habitat in the Tygart Valley River have also been affected by acid loadings. In Tygart Lake, a major Corps of Engineers' reservoir, acid loadings also adversely affect the ecosystem. A 1981 EPA assessment found that conditions would not improve until abandoned mines were properly reclaimed. The most severe impact from acid mine drainage is the influx from Cassity Fork, which each year dumps - approximately 1,542 tons of acid-laden runoff into the river. The primary sources of this acidity are abandoned coal mines located on two mountain tops--Kittle Flats and Whitman Flats.

Some mines were eligible for reclamation using Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funds, but AML funds alone could not correct the problems. So various state and federal agencies pooled their programs and financial and technical resources in a coordinated and comprehensive effort to improve water quality using a watershed approach.

In February 1991, six agencies joined West Virginia's Governor Gaston Caperton in signing a memorandum of understanding designed to reduce duplication of effort, accelerate abatement measures, and improve the overall - effectiveness of the reclamation. State signatories were the Division of Natural Resources (now the Division of Environmental Protection) and the State Soil Conservation Committee (now the Soil Conservation Agency). Federal agencies were Office of Surface Mining, EPA, and SCS.

The agencies developed a work plan to identify the major tasks of each agency. Initial tasks were to inventory all coal mine sites in the watershed, secure water quality data, and establish priorities. Other tasks included designing and installing abatement techniques and identifying and securing funds for design, construction, and monitoring. Future tasks will include rehabilitation through stream enhancements and fishery restoration.

In its second year, the Middle Fork River Watershed National Pilot Project has taken action to reduce acid mine drainage. Action includes constructing alkaline trenches, anoxic limestone drains, and wetlands to - promote natural revegetation and land reclamation on sites not eligible for Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation funding. During the past year, several areas were named to receive reclamation and abatement funding.

In one seep site on Kittle Flats, the U.S. Bureau of Mines designed an internal monitoring well system for an anoxic limestone drain. This has proven successful in reducing metals and acid loads in the seep discharge. With approximately two years of baseline water quality data, Table 3-1 shows the seep's chemical characteristics before and after installation of the anoxic limestone drain. Water quality improvements have been seen in the Middle Fork River below Cassity. Abatement work in the Cassity Fork watershed has significantly decreased acidity concentrations levels. Figures 3-2 and 3-3 show specific water quality improvement.

Section 319 funds are currently being used to fund many of these projects. As of February 1992, $180,093 section 319 funds were committed out of a total commitment of $569,918. Additional funds have been spent for reclamation activities, with a total of $4 million to be funded by existing federal and state programs.

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