Communities concerned about MVP pipeline water pollution, explosion risk

Nadia Ramlagan

After a federal appeals court this week denied a request from a group of Virginia landowners to stop construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on their land under eminent domain, communities near the pipeline say the project’s scale raises serious concerns about safety and landslide risk.

The more than 300-mile natural gas pipeline would run through several Virginia and West Virginia counties.

Activist and Roanoke County resident Ben James said he’s already witnessed forests destroyed and spoken with residents who say their water has been contaminated.

“It’s ruined people’s water supplies,” said James. “It certainly changes the landscape just by the nature of it being built. It’s caused a lot of problems in people’s watersheds and from pollution and just disrupting the water systems.”

The pipeline is several years behind schedule and massively over budget. In a report, Equitrans Midstream, the company behind the pipeline, said it won’t be in operation until next year.

Total project costs are now expected to exceed $7 billion. Supporters of the pipeline argue it will reduce energy costs and increase reliability.

After a slew of permitting challenges and legal hurdles, this year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the project’s construction.

James said residents remain concerned about pipeline explosions, which pose a serious threat.

“No one in politics seems to be doing anything about it at this point,” said James. “But there’s a lot of people who live here and a lot of people from other areas that care about the environment and care about the damage this is doing to communities.”

West Virginia Lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin – D-WV, and U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito – R-WV, have championed the restart of the pipeline’s construction.

In West Virginia, the MVP’s route runs through Braxton, Doddridge, Fayette, Greenbrier, Harrison, Lewis, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Webster and Wetzel counties.