Atlantic Coast Pipeline: What You Need to Know


Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

Dominion Energy Transmission is beginning to construct a 600-mile underground natural gas pipeline that will cut through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Construction of the pipeline began in late May, but several environmental groups have expressed their concerns for the project. The pipeline itself is proposed to be anywhere from 16 to 42 inches in diameter. The project will also include three new compressor stations and nine metering stations spanning across the three states. Natural gas, crude oil, and any type of pipeline poses a major threat to the environment and drinking water resources.


In June of 2017, the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. FERC has primary authority to approve or reject interstate natural gas pipelines. An EIS is the final step before the construction of a major federal project. It essentially protects Dominion from legal prosecution if all impacts and alternatives are considered. On January 26th, 2018, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued general permits and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued necessary water-quality permits. Construction of the project began May 23rd, 2018 at the compressor station in Jane Lew, West Virginia.

What Does This Mean for Drinking Water?

Techniques used when constructing underground pipelines have historically threatened surrounding surface water and groundwater reserves. Not to mention, undetected spills and leakages throughout the lifetime of a pipeline account for a high degree of water contamination. Methane is the primary component of natural gas. This is a non-toxic, odorless contaminant, but at high concentrations can be fatal. Additionally, land topography is completely altered during construction and after the completion of a pipeline. In order to build this particular pipeline, construction equipment must be made accessible for all 600 miles. This means that bulldozers, large trucks, and excavators must drive through sensitive watersheds for drinking water resources. Top soil can become loose which then exacerbates erosion potential. This could affect the volume and rate of runoff into surrounding water bodies, and an influx of contaminants from construction.

Private Wells

Surface spills can occur during the operation of a natural gas pipeline which can create a host of problems. Spills can runoff directly into groundwater aquifers and into drinking water wells. If you have a private well, there is no way to detect contamination without expensive testing that can take months to receive results. Once a municipality is notified of a spill, well water has most likely been contaminating an aquifer for a while. Additionally, tailpipe effluent from construction equipment is likely to find its way to groundwater aquifers. Private well users are most at risk from groundwater contamination because they are not regulated by the Federal Government. If you get your water supply from a private well, we recommend using a filtration system to remove potential contaminants.
If you have questions regarding pipeline construction, groundwater contamination, or purchasing a filtration system, send us an email at

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