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Dominion Power Refuses Pocahontas Commission’s Request for Water Testing Funds

In December The Pocahontas County Commission directed their Counsel, Bob Martin to write a letter to Robert Orndorff of Dominion Resources to request that Dominion Power and its energy partners in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline voluntarily contribute funds to the Pocahontas County Water Task Force to monitor the rivers and streams near the construction areas of the Pipeline. It was announced at the February 6th Commission meeting that a letter had been received from Dominion declining to contribute to the Water Task Force’s water testing project.

As it happened, Orndorff attended that Commission meeting since he was introducing Denise Campbell and Mike Cozad as the Dominion and the ACP’s Liaisons with the community. Commission President Bill Beard wasted no time in asking Orndorff about the denial of funds.

“The reason we felt like asking for additional money to help us do some water sampling, it is a project bringing some extra trouble to the county” said Beard. “And we just felt like it was needed to make sure everything was goinna go the way it was supposed to go.”

Orndorff replies.

“Well, as I indicated in the letter, there’s really going to be six layers of inspection and observation, six different sets of eyes in the project” said Orndorff. “FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Authority) is the ultimate shutdown authority. If somebody has a problem they complain to Denise (Campbell, the Community Liaison), Denise does daily reports, they’re sending it to FERC. That’s one of the actions. FERC hires a third party environmental consultant who becomes an inspector on the project. Dominion Energy will have an inspector on the project. The contractor will have an inspector on the project. This project has the eyes and ears of the (WV) DEP from the highest level. And finally, on a floodplain issue, the Floodplain Manager has also asked for access and observation rights. So, I feel and my company feels specifically, that’s a very comprehensive perspective for looking at water quality issues. Plus the other thing is, when you ask for money you don’t clearly define what will you be testing for, where you are going to be testing, what’s the protocol, whose going to test, what is their qualifications –there’s a lot of questions we have regarding the issue. I think having Denise meet regularly with your water quality group would help.”

Commission President Beard did not seem at all satisfied with that response.

“My, and some other people’s feeling is – no disrespect for your all’s company or to the Federal Government, but there’s a lot of distrust” Beard fired back.

Orndorff tried again.

“And I don’t disagree with you” said Orndorff. “I’ve indicated from the very start of the project, we understand what a pristine environment Pocahontas County is. We will protect that to the highest standard.”

Commissioner McLaughlin jumped in at this point.

“I think you said ‘what are we testing for?’ said McLaughlin.”We’re testing for water quality change related to the pipeline construction. And another thing, with our Water Taskforce people, will they have access to any parts of the construction?”

Orndorff answered.

“Denise and Mike have both gone through our safety training” said Orndorff. “So, at some point in time they need to start meeting. Can they have unfettered access without Mike and Denise being there? My answer has to be no, but I think if we work on a protocol where they can somewhat be involved in the project, that’s what they’ll do.”

A lot of other things happened at this Commission meeting, and we will talk about those in the next part  of this story.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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