Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck face tougher water rules
by Larry Chowning
The State Water Control Board voted unanimously on June 17 to place the counties of the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck and other parts of Virginia in a “groundwater management area” that will place further restrictions on heavy water users.
In a management area, any user that wants to use more than 300,000 gallons of water a month will need a state permit, among other things.
Being in a management area will impact most subdivisions that want central water systems. The management areas, however, will have no impact on individual homeowners who drill their own wells.
Middlesex County supervisors voiced concerns at their January meeting when they met with Scott Kudlas, the water supply director of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Supervisors noted that it takes nearly two years to get a community well permit now, and they feared a new management plan, such as the one adopted June 17, would slow down the process even more.
At that meeting, Kudlas confirmed that it takes 18 months to get a permit in a management area, but hopes that time will decrease in the future.
Kudlas told board members then that overused aquifers can go dry and there is already evidence of aquifer depletion in some areas of the state, causing land to sink. The management program will require large water users to be responsible for paying the cost of re-drilling private wells when an individual’s well goes dry, he said. “We are [currently] withdrawing at an unsustainable level,” he said.
The largest water users in the Middle Peninsula and surrounding area are the paper mills in West Point and Franklin.
The new management area will add 10 counties and parts of six others. Counties being added to the area lie north of I-64, including those in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck and part of Northern Virginia.
Now, all major groundwater withdrawals east of I-95 will be more strictly regulated.
Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.