Virginia Approves Discharge Permits

June 18, 2004

The Virginia State Water Control Board voted unanimously to allow two sewer treatment plants to continue discharging nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage treatment plants without strict limits, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

These two permits, issued despite the objections of environmental groups, were granted to tobacco giant Philip Morris USA and the Eastern Shore town of Onancock.

The permits are not without limite, however, The plants would be required to monitor nutrient concentrations as wastewater flows out of discharge pipes, to study new methods for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus, and to recognize that they will face tough, specific limits once the state finalizes nutrient regulations, probably late next year, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

"Could we do more now? Perhaps," Robert Burnley , director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, told the Virinian-Pilot. But to do so without regulations in place, Burnley told the board, could lead to legal challenges, expensive plant upgrades that might not be necessary, and huge increases in sewer rates for thousands of Virginians.

"Sometimes I feel like I’m driving down some street in Baghdad, with everyone lobbing bombs at us," said Al Pollock , state director of water programs. "Believe me, we’re going as fast as we can; we’re trying to get to the end of that road."

Source: The Virginian-Pilot