Vol. 17 Issue 10 October 2020
News from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
Wells Named MDEQ Executive Director

Governor Tate Reeves announced on October 20 the appointment of Chris Wells as the Executive Director of MDEQ. Wells served as Interim Executive Director for most of 2020 after stints as Chief of Staff, Senior Attorney, and Acting Director of the Office of Restoration. He has worked for the agency since 2007.

“Chris is a dedicated public servant who has spent the bulk of his career working for the people of Mississippi. He knows what it means to put their priorities first, and he has been a steady hand in this vital role since I took office. I have the utmost confidence in him, and I know that he will continue to serve the people well,” said Governor Tate Reeves. Read more in the press release. Chris Wells' bio.
Virtual Restoration Summit

The Mississippi Restoration Summit hosted annually by MDEQ will be held virtually this year on November 10 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. The summit will include updates on Mississippi's restoration efforts resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Register here to participate. Join MDEQ's restoration email list for updates and details as the summit draws closer. Information will also be posted on MDEQ's restoration webpage.
Staff Changes
Valerie Alley

Valerie Alley was appointed in September to serve as the Program Management Division Chief in the Office of Restoration. She is responsible for the technical oversight and management of the National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), National Fish and Wildlife-Gulf Environmental Benefits Fund (NFWF-GEBF), and RESTORE Act programs. These programs are responsible for implementation of restoration projects in Mississippi. Valerie has been with the agency for 16 years and was previously NRDA Coordinator in the Office of Restoration and managed Water Quality Assessment in the Field Services Division of the Office of Pollution Control.

“I am excited for the opportunity to lead an amazing group of engineers and scientists while providing scientific and technical support for the agency’s comprehensive approach to restoration and implementation of projects that will restore and enhance the Gulf Coast’s natural resources following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Restoration of our natural resources, economy and tourism is an important part of MDEQ’s mission to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of present and future generations of Mississippians,” said Alley.

Valerie earned a B.S in Biology from the University of North Alabama, an M.S. in Biology from the University of Louisiana Monroe, and is a Board Certified Environmental Scientist. She is a native of northwest Alabama and has resided in Pearl with her family for 13 years.  
Melissa Fortenberry

Melissa Fortenberry was recently appointed to serve as the new Air Division Chief in the Office of Pollution Control. She replaces Chad LaFontaine who retired from the agency in August and is now the Executive Director of Metro 4/SESARM. Melissa has been with the agency for over 21 years and began her career as a staff engineer writing Title V permits. She soon moved to the Air Toxics Branch within the Air Division and later became the Branch Manager of the Air Toxics New Standards Branch. 

“I am excited to serve the Air Division, the agency, and the state in this new role. I joined MDEQ almost 22 years ago because I truly care about Mississippi--its people, its industry, and its environment. It has been such a rewarding experience to be a part of what the Air Division has accomplished over the years, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to lead it into the future,” said Fortenberry.

Melissa earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Mississippi State University, an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Mississippi, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the state. She is a native of Brandon and currently lives “out in the country” with an old dog that has thoroughly enjoyed the social distancing requirements of 2020.
Kenny Pilgrim

Kenny Pilgrim was selected in September to serve as the Air II Branch Manager in the Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Division (ECED). He replaces Michelle Clark, who was recently chosen as Chief of ECED. He is responsible for overseeing staff and coordinating environmental compliance assurance of several industries including timber and wood products, metals, and construction facilities. Kenny has been with the agency for 13 years and was a staff engineer in the Air II Branch and Service and Miscellaneous Branch of ECED as well as Timber and Wood Products Branch of the Environment Permits Division (EPD).

“I appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve Mississippi and MDEQ in this new capacity. I am looking forward to leading the great engineers of the Air II Branch. I truly believe in the work and mission of MDEQ to ensure a healthy and prosperous Mississippi,” said Pilgrim.

Kenny earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Mississippi State University and is a registered Professional Engineer. He is a native of Jackson and currently lives in Madison.
MDEQ Seeks Environmental Leaders for enHance Membership
The MDEQ enHance environmental stewardship program is seeking applicants for the 2021 class of environmental leaders. Interested facilities such as manufacturers, local governments, institutions, and other organizations are encouraged to apply. 
The application period is open now and will close on October 31. More information is available on the enHance webpage including a description of the requirements for qualification, the process to apply, and access to online applications.  MDEQ is also encouraging existing members of the class of 2018 to submit a renewal application for the enHance class of 2021. The application to renew can also be found on the enhance program website. 

Additional questions on new and renewing memberships to the enHance program may be directed to Mr. Khairy Abu-Salah.
EPA Awards $122,070 Pollution Prevention Funding to MDEQ

In September, EPA announced the award of a $122,070 Pollution Prevention (P2) grant to MDEQ as part of a total of grant funding totaling $9.3 million to 42 organizations across 39 states. MDEQ will use the funds to support P2 efforts and the enHance program. Read the press release. Other recent EPA announcements pertaining to Mississippi include the signing of an MOU between EPA and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and the award of a $200,000 Trash-Free Waters grant to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Small Business Environmental Assistance Program

MDEQ’s Small Business Environmental Assistance Program (SBEAP) provides training and support to small businesses to assist them in complying with environmental regulations and includes providing them with information about EPA’s programs and available resources. 

The program is comprised of three components working together to help small businesses: a SBEAP Technical Assistance Coordinator that provides environmental and technical support, a Small Business Ombudsman to advocate on behalf of small businesses within the regulatory environment, and a Compliance Advisory Panel of small business owners and small business representatives to ensure the program meets the needs of Mississippi’s small businesses. The services provided through the SBEEAP are free, non-regulatory, and confidential. Find out more here.
Igneous rocks of the St. Francois Mountains and Prehistoric Artifacts in Mississippi
The closest exposures of bedrock sources for igneous rocks from Mississippi is the ancient volcanic complex of the St. Francois Mountains in southeastern Missouri.  During the episode of Kansan glaciation, deep back in the mid-Pleistocene, glaciers plowed through Missouri. Meltwaters and ice-dam breaks carried a flood of igneous rocks from the St. Francois region (along with chert gravel and a host of other materials from the mid-continent) down the ancestral Mississippi River.  Subsequent glacial episodes caused the Mississippi River to cut a deeper valley, abandoning remnants of the old ones courses perched high along the bluffs, leaving behind the Pre-loess Terrace gravels.  St. Francois igneous rocks particularly common in the Pre-loess Terrace gravels are rhyolite, trachyte, welded tuff and significantly less common is diabase.  Much later on, at the end of the last ice age, the ice sheets receded for the last time into the Arctic and the Mississippi River filled its valley with sediment to where it is today. Igneous rocks (typically granite and basalt) were then added all the way from bedrock sources in Canada to the modern Mississippi River’s alluvium.  These Canadian igneous materials can be seen today along the Mississippi River gravel bars and in irrigation wells drilled into the alluvium but are curiously absent from the older Pre-loess terrace gravels in the adjacent bluffs . Prehistoric cultures widely exploited the igneous materials from the bedrock of Missouri’s St. Francois region and widely traded them throughout mid-continent and across the southeast.  Much of the exotic igneous material from the St. Francois region that can be found as artifacts on prehistoric archaeological sites in Mississippi could very well have been traded from the original bedrock source.  Though, studying the geologic record tells us that identical material is also available here in the Loess Bluff region and was undoubtedly also exploited.  The availability of these resources complicates our understanding of trade in the archaeological record and undoubtedly causes a significant problem interpreting sites here in Mississippi with artifacts made from resources of St. Francois igneous materials. Find out more about lithic materials in Mississippi here.
Check Out the Mississippi Boreholes Viewer

The Environmental Geology Division's Mississippi Boreholes Viewer contains an enormous amount of data from water well files and geophysical logs that are available online to water well contractors, academia, and the public. Access it here.
Mississippi’s Scenic Community Certification Recognizes Communities   
Donna Yowell, Mississippi Urban Forest Council

Scenic Communities of Mississippi is a resource program to help community leaders develop and implement local Best Management Practices and other green projects. The Mississippi Urban Forest Council (MUFC), working with MDEQ, has developed the fourth edition of a resource guide and the recognition program for any community wanting to learn more. It is a free program and available to all.  Read More. Pictured are MDEQ's Coen Perrott, New Albany Mayor Tim Kent, Joanne Lesley from the Union County Development Association, and Donna Yowell with MUFC.
Bock Selected for Beneficial Use Task Force

Charlie Bock, with MDEQ’s Waste Division, has been selected by the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials to serve as the EPA Region 4 representative on the organization’s Beneficial Use Task Force. The task force identifies and informs state environmental agencies of information, successful practices, and procedures that can be used to make proper determinations on proposed beneficial uses and to transfer the best available technical and administrative information to states developing or improving beneficial use work in solid waste and waste reduction programs. Bock has been with MDEQ since 2008, and is currently the manager of the Solid Waste Policy, Planning, and Special Programs Branch. 
Photo of the Month

Pearl River in Rankin County taken by MDEQ's James Starnes.