Thursday 17 August 2017

Jamie Brunkow, the lower James riverkeeper for the James River Association, said he worries about how metals from coal ash could harm the endangered sturgeon that are making a comeback in portions of the river.

Beyond the water, which Dominion has promised will be cleaned to standards that protect human and aquatic life, Brunkow worries about the possibility that toxins will continue to seep into the river and groundwater if the ponds are closed in place.

“It’s a very big concern. It’s an unresolved question as to what effect it’s already having,” said Brunkow, who hopes the utility’s recent settlement with the association and the Southern Environmental Law Center to improve water treatment for the ponds at Bremo Power Station set a precedent the utility will follow at Chesterfield.

“I would hope we would have these strong conditions in the permit early on without having to go through the process of negotiating these limits. I think we’ve been successful at Bremo in setting a new bar, so that’s encouraging.”

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(Published in Richmond Times Dispatch, March 26, 2016)

Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks also had asked the EPA to investigate discharges from the power plant’s impoundments, which he contends occurred with little oversight from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“Elected officials getting involved is helpful in terms of bringing credibility to the issue,” said Naujoks. “The more EPA gets pressured to look into it, the more likely it is they’ll do it.”

The plant’s impoundments, where coal-burning byproducts have been stored for decades, have been scrutinized and subject to legal challenges in recent months after the state agency granted Dominion a permit to discharge water from lagoons containing coal ash.

Two of those appeals were dropped this week when Dominion agreed to treat water being discharged from the impoundments to a higher degree than the DEQ permits require.

But the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the state of Maryland are still pressing their appeals that the permit for Possum Point does not go far enough to protect local water quality.

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(Published in Bay Journal, March 11, 2016)

In a unanimous 100-page opinion, the Court of Appeals on Friday dismissed complaints by several environmental groups that stormwater pollution discharge permits issued by the state were not sufficiently stringent and had been drafted without adequate public input.

The groups — including Waterkeepers Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation — had gone to court to challenge stormwater permits given by the Maryland Department of the Environment to Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. 

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge had sided with the challengers, ordering the state to revise its permit for that county. But judges in the other jurisdictions had deferred to the state agency.

The environmental groups still have one appeal pending over their complaint that Baltimore city, in particular, was not required to do enough to root out illicit discharges into its storm sewers. Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, said the groups would decide whether to pursue that case in light of the appeals court’s ruling on the others.

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(Published in Bay Journal, March 11, 2016)