Dominion Virginia moving ahead with controversial unlined coal ash storage pit
- Dominion Virginia Power wants to transfer the 3.7 million cubic yards of coal ash left in five leaky storage ponds at its Possum Point Power Station into a single pond which it says it will make impermeable for permanent storage.
- Potomac RiverKeeper Network and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) claim the utility’s plan, which they say it is moving ahead on without public notice or approval from state regulators, is a way to get around more restrictive federal coal ash regulations that will go into effect later this year. They warn the coal ash will compromise Quantico Creek, which drains into the Potomac River.
- Dominion says it is working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the site. A DEQ spokesperson told the Washington Post there is no indication the toxic soup combusted coal waste, including mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and chromium, would leak when the permanent storage is complete.
Among the things Dominion plans to do to secure the permanent storage site are put all the ash in a “dewatered” pit, and cover the pit with two impermeable layers industrial strength plastic to protect the ash from rainwater, which can lead to toxic runoff.
The utility would also build a drainage layer on top to channel water away and cover the surface with 18 inches of soil and another six inches of topsoil to support vegetation that will minimize erosion.
SELC argues that because the pond is unlined, the potentially carcinogenic mixture of pollutants can leach out into the surroundings through the pit's sides.
“Covering up the coal ash and calling the sites ‘closed’ will not stop the pollution,” SELC added in a blog post.
The environmental groups want Dominion to haul the ash to a lined landfill, which is what Duke Energy Carolinas is now doing after hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and fines stemming from the February 2014 Dan River coal ash spill.
- Southern Environmental Law Center Dominion doubles down on leaking coal ash storage at Possum Point Power Station