© 2022
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Prayer and Preparation: Monitoring The MVP

Kurt Holtz

The small town of Newport, Virginia is bracing itself for what's about to happen there; the recently approved, Mountain Valley Pipeline will cross through the heart of the village, carrying natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania through Virginia.

More than a 100 people gathered at Newport's village green on a Sunday afternoon for an interfaith prayer service.  It was a lament for the pipeline to come and a recommitment to the road ahead, to protect natural resources and their very community. It was also the official kickoff of....

"Mountain Valley Watch ---and we're going to be watching."

Rick Shingles is one of the organizers of the effort, similar to a monitoring project, a few hundred miles north of here, for the Atlantic Coast Natural gas pipeline:

"We're going to train them and if they see a problem, take a photo and it will be transmitted to an info hub run by scientists who will forward it to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and also, keep a history of it and then follow through."

Diana Christopulos, who spoke at the prayer vigil, says despite the green light for the pipeline project, she still has hope the Mountain Valley Pipeline could be stopped, perhaps by regulators, or something beyond that.

"To see the communities of faith here today from 5 different congregations. This hasn't happened before, and I think, when you look at our history as a nation, when the faith community starts standing up and saying 'you know this is morally wrong, it's a problem, not just in terms of destroying our water. It's morally wrong, what's being done here, to the land owners and the land. So I think that's pretty important."

To participate in monitoring the Mountain Valley Pipeline go to Powhr.org

Mountain Valley Watch (MVW)

Construction Monitoring Program


Program Scope:


Monitor the Mountain Valley Pipeline for problems during construction activities for water source contamination, soil erosion into waterbodies, stream channel damage, slope failures, and damage to adjacent properties.


Program Mission:


Perform aerial and field observations during pipeline construction to insure compliance with environmental regulations working with broad based collaboration of:

·       local residents, landowners and concerned citizens in each County

·       engineering and scientific experts


Report environmental violations to government agency staff for compliance and corrective action or fines.


Program Elements


1.     Data Management

·       Maintain database

·       Organize and present data acquired from observations

·       Operate and maintain GIS mapping

·       Establish baseline and event imagery for GIS mapping

·      Manage construction photogrammetry

·       Develop violation reporting protocol


2.     Environmental review

·       Credentialed team of experts

·       Prepare check list for observers

·       Review photos and video obtained through aerial surveillance

·       Participate in on-the-ground inspections as MVW Incident Responders

·       Review violation reports for compliance with regulations


3.     Water quality monitoring

·       Obtain existing stream monitoring data

·       Establish sampling and analysis method for petroleum contamination

·       Recruit pool of dedicated volunteers to assist with water data collection teams

·       Train volunteers to perform field water quality monitoring

·       Perform field water quality monitoring


4.     Aerial and Drone Surveillance

·       Recruit and train pilots for drone component

·       Coordinate flyovers with Southwings

·       Establish protocol for transmittal of information to data management team


5.     Budget and Fund Raising

·       Develop budget estimates

·       Reach out to potential funding sources


Routine MVW Tasks


1.     Incident/Case Information Management

·       Monitor incident reporting inputs from Hotline

·       Contact source for more info if needed

·       Open and maintain case file, including records of initial observation and documentation, additional info provided by Incident Responders

·       Prepare info package for Incident Responders

2.     Case Decisions

·       Review initial reports

·       Consult with Environmental Review Team

·       Dispatch Incident Responders

a)    Ground observation

b)    Water data collectors

c)     Aerial/drone surveillance

·       Review available information

·       Make complaint determination

3.    Incident Reporting

·       Submit complaint reports to agencies

·       Publish incident report on POWHR website



Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.