Key Environmental Issues


As a regulatory agency, the WVDEP navigates many issues that can potentially impact both the state's environment and its citizens. We strive to provide the public with the most complete and up-to-date information possible. Here, you can learn more about new and developing environmental issues and the steps the WVDEP is taking to address them.


  • Ethylene Oxide (EtO)

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the latest study of air toxic emissions across the United States using data from 2014. That data was compiled and released by the EPA in 2018 in a report called the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA). The NATA is a broad overview of air emissions across the country – commonly referred to as a screening tool – and is designed to identify areas that may need further investigation.

    The most recent assessment identified four census tracts in West Virginia – two in South Charleston and two in Institute.

    While the latest assessment was being conducted, the EPA made a new finding related to EtO and reclassified it from a probable human carcinogen to a known human carcinogen. The potentially elevated risk is not due to new emission sources or increased emissions from permit holders, but rather to the EPA's finding that long-term exposure to EtO may be more harmful than previously thought.

    The WVDEP is committed to staying engaged nationally as the EPA works to update regulations to reduce impacts from hazardous air pollutant emissions like EtO. The WVDEP is continuing to work with West Virginia facilities and communities to reduce the potential health risks associated with air toxic emissions.

  • Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

    Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in a variety of industries around the world since the 1940s. They include Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), which have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals.

    Both PFOA and PFOS have been shown to be persistent in the human body, and PFAS is estimated to be present in the blood of almost all U.S. residents.

    PFAS have been used to make cookware, carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food, and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, and stains. They are also used in firefighting foams and several industrial processes.

    While drinking water is the primary pathway of exposure to PFAS, they can also be present in soil, air, food, and materials found in homes and workplaces.​