May 26, 2023 - Following through on his commitment to deliver solutions to the people of McDowell County, West Virginia, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan has announced a series of initial actions that respond directly to the concerns he saw and heard on the ground during his visit to the state in December 2022, which marked the Administrator’s third Journey to Justice tour.
During his visit, Administrator Regan toured a hundred-year-old drinking water plant in need of repair, visited with McDowell County residents who only recently connected to their town’s main water line after years of facing inadequate access to water infrastructure, and spent time with volunteers at a community food bank who have employed innovative, community-driven solutions to provide clean drinking water for their neighbors.
“Communities like McDowell County once powered our nation and helped cement America’s competitiveness, and we owe it to the people of West Virginia to show our support by prioritizing the longstanding infrastructure challenges they face,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “During my time in McDowell, I met with folks who’ve struggled for years with access to basic water infrastructure. This is unacceptable in the United States of America, and that’s why President Biden has made investing in water infrastructure a cornerstone of his historic policy agenda. I promised the good people of McDowell that we would work hand in hand to address these generational challenges, and these initial actions are just the beginning of that partnership. EPA will continue to work closely with our state, local, and federal partners to provide even more resources and build long-term capacity in McDowell County and in the southern coal fields of West Virginia.”
“For years, the WVDEP has worked to provide access to clean water and address environmental and public health concerns in many communities in McDowell County,” said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Cabinet Secretary Harold Ward. “There is still much work to be done and we are committed to expanding our partnership with the U.S. EPA and engaging with community stakeholders to find additional avenues and resources so that we can build on the progress we've made in southern West Virginia.”
The following actions reflect the initial steps EPA is taking following the Administrator’s Journey to Justice tour in McDowell County, WV:
Community Solutions Coordinator
Beginning fall 2023, EPA will work with state and local agencies in West Virginia to create a full-time position dedicated to identifying and expediting eligible resource opportunities across the federal government for the state’s southern coalfield counties, including McDowell. The Community Solutions Coordinator will serve as a point of contact for these counties to accelerate progress, increase investments, and strengthen existing networks in these areas.
Air Quality Monitoring
Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan and President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, Appalachian Voices, an organization committed to advancing a just transition for Central and Southern Appalachia, is expected to receive a $118,297 grant to deploy low-cost air quality monitors in communities with air quality challenges across several states, including West Virginia. Air quality data will be collected and made publicly available to foster community engagement around local and regional air quality issues in communities adjacent to one or more coal mines, coal-fired plants, fossil fuel export hubs and more. A portion of this funding will be made available to McDowell County through Appalachia Mountain Flows Corps, a Keystone, West Virginia-based organization.
Dig Deep Right to Water Community Grant
During Administrator Regan’s Journey to Justice tour, he met with community members who lack access to basic wastewater infrastructure, many of whom rely on straight-pipes to carry raw sewage from their homes into local waterways. To help bolster the community’s wastewater infrastructure, the Dig Deep Right to Water Project will receive a $495,840 grant, funded through FY 2022 annual appropriations, for a sanitary septic and sewerage service project. Dig Deep will install approximately 35 onsite sewage systems for properties in McDowell County that are currently directly discharging to streams.
Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (TCTAC)
Through EPA’s Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers, which is designed to help underserved and overburdened communities across the country access funds from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the National Wildlife Federation will receive $12 million in grants over five years to provide community resources and assistance across the Mid-Atlantic Region. West Virginia State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), is a partner in this effort and will continue working to provide additional technical assistance and support to the McDowell County community – from providing training and other assistance to building capacity for navigating federal grant application systems, to writing strong grant proposals, to effectively managing grant funding.
Learn more information about Journey to Justice.