Sound Rivers keeping an eye on Atlantic Coast Pipeline with Pipeline Watch

Published 6:20 pm Friday, August 10, 2018

In Virginia and West Virginia, a network of volunteers has feet on the ground and eyes watching the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In North Carolina, construction has yet to start on the 600-mile, 42-inch, natural gas pipeline that will cross eight counties, but environmental organizations are sending out a call for those who want to be a part of the North Carolina Pipeline Watch.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is proposed to go through 200 miles of North Carolina, starting up in Roanoke Rapids and ending down in Lumberton,” said Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper Forrest English. “It will cross hundreds of waterways, and we’re concerned about sediment from any construction activities entering our freshwater waterways, particularly those that have freshwater mussels.”

The pipeline is projected to cross through both the Tar River and the Neuse River basins, and the Tar River is home to endangered mussel species, including the Tar River spiny mussel.

“The upper Tar is recognized as a unique stronghold for freshwater mussels; it has a number of endangered species,” English said. “We want to make sure they’re still around.”

That’s part of the goal of Pipeline Watch — to make sure construction, if and when it starts, does not literally muddy the waters in which these endangered species live. In Virginia and West Virginia, the network of volunteers has been monitoring construction. So far, they’ve reported 150 violations to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, according to English.

“They’re just looking for pollution concerns and making sure pollution does not reach our streams and rivers and when it does, documenting it, and highlighting the bad actors here,” English said. “The types of things that they’re looking for are fuel spills, muddy water eroding off of construction sites where they have not put down sufficient mechanisms to prevent runoff. … It’s (purpose is) to keep the contractors accountable every step of the way and keep what protections we can for our waterways.”

A result of the Virginia reports of violations was a three-paneled judge retracted two permits earlier this week, which halted construction on the pipeline. One of those permits addressed protections for endangered species.

Local environmental watchdog Sound Rivers has teamed up with the Cape Fear River Watch, Winyah Rivers and the Sierra Club to provide the same oversight by volunteers.

“We’re concerned because of water quality issues and endangered species. Particularly, we’re worried about those species because of the track record up in Virginia, and we want to make sure they won’t get away with that here,” English said.

English said several volunteers are already involved and trainings to teach volunteers how to spot suspected violations and look for spills and pollution are in the works. Residents in the path of the pipeline also can report problems through an online form at

“I think ACP has a number of hurdles to deal with before they can appropriately move forward with their project, but we’re preparing to work toward the eventuality that it does happen and making sure it gets the attention that it needs,” English said.