Saturday 19 January 2019

Researchers at Duke University who say they have developed a method to link water contamination to coal ash have taken samples near Dominion Virginia Power facilities in Fluvanna and Chesterfield counties and expect to publish the results in a scientific journal after a peer-review process is complete.

Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power are currently in the process of closing ash ponds, where waste left over from burning coal to generate electricity is mixed with water to keep it from becoming airborne, at six facilities across the state.

The process of “dewatering” the ponds, including treating the water to levels specified by permits approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and discharging it into the James River and Quantico Creek, has begun at the Bremo station and at Possum Point in Prince William County. Dominion has also committed to additional treatment at each facility pursuant to separate agreements with the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and the James River Association. However, appeals by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the state of Maryland of the water-discharge permits issued for Possum Point are still pending.


(Published in Richmond Times Dispatch, May 16, 2016)




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.”


(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.


(Published in Bay Journal, March 11, 2016)