Prove your humanity

This story comes from our partners at West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

In spite of assurances from builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that it’s ready for service, some residents of a Virginia community want more answers.

At Bent Mountain, Virginia, construction crews are working on the Mountain Valley Pipeline to begin operation in the next few weeks.

A section of the pipe burst during testing, releasing water, not the large volume of natural gas it’s intended to carry.

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Residents reported the sediment-laden water in creeks and on property on the morning of May 1 to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

It took nearly a week for the pipeline’s builder and state and federal agencies to respond to West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s questions about the pipeline failure. People who live near the pipeline have encountered similar frustrations.

Robin Austin, a Bent Mountain resident who’s been monitoring the nearly $8 billion project for a decade, says so many agencies are involved, it’s hard to know where to go for information.

“It’s really complicated,” she said. “You’ve got all these agencies. That’s a whole other problem. You don’t know who to send stuff to when you think something’s going on or you’d like information, so that makes it really challenging to get information.”

Austin says the pipeline’s builder, Equitrans Midstream, resumed hydrostatic testing – pressure testing with water – on Tuesday night, after repairing the damaged pipe.

The company says 269 miles of the 303-mile pipeline across two states – West Virginia and Virginia – have been successfully tested.

Equitrans has asked federal regulators for permission to begin operating the pipe by the end of the month. Landowners, including Austin, have doubts about whether it’s ready.

“We want our community to be safe. If this has got to be here, it’s got to be safe,” Austin said. “That’s why we’ve observed for all these years. We’ll continue to do it. We’ll continue to do it if and when the gas is running through it.”