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EDITORIAL: DEQ blows whistle on county's erosion

EDITORIAL: DEQ blows whistle on county's erosion

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SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY’S erosion and sediment control program seems to have a few problems. In the latest Virginia Department of Environmental Quality audit, the program didn’t quite make the grade.

In the four categories graded (administration, plan reviews, inspections and enforcement) Spotsy scored, respectively, 55, 35, 25 and 0. Localities must make at least 70 in each category to be in compliance. Maybe someone in the county thought the cumulative score had to be 70.

Thirteen programs were listed as problems, including an animal shelter expansion, the Village at Courthouse Commons apartment project and Dominion Raceway. Erosion, storm-water runoff and flooding were among the issues.

The DEQ audit was done last September, but the county wasn’t notified until May, which does not seem to indicate a sense of urgency on the DEQ’s part. County Administrator Ed Petrovitch signed off on the audit the same month, showing that Spotsy takes the failure seriously.

Getting written up by the DEQ gets our attention, because that organization has not distinguished itself as a vigilant watchdog of the state’s environment. Many felt it was too lax in dealing with the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (now deceased) and Mountain Valley Pipeline.

A stakeholder advisory group the department set up this year to study turbidity (sediment) in rivers and streams has been castigated for being stacked with officials from regulated industries and others who stand to benefit from slack environmental controls.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental groups have criticized what they consider the department’s lax guardianship of the state’s waterways for years.

So when the DEQ is on your case, it’s time to do better.

Erosion and sediment control are important far beyond Spotsylvania County, of course. Runoff there finds its way to the Rappahannock River or, via the Matta, Po and Ni, to the Mattaponi to the York. Either way, all streams lead to the Bay, whose well-documented pollution woes owe much to such runoff.

We hope Spotsylvania takes the DEQ’s assessment seriously. There is a financial incentive to do so. Fines can run up to $5,000 a day, with a maximum of $20,000 per violation.

Kudos to the DEQ for holding individuals and localities accountable. We’d like to think that’s becoming a trend.

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