Coal ash pollution targeted under Virginia bill

Today, Virginia legislators considered a bill championed by Governor Ralph Northam that could finally put an end to coal ash pollution in Virginia. The legislation, backed by both Democrats and Republicans, would require Dominion Energy to dig up its 28 million tons of coal ash in leaking pits across the state.

Coal ash is the substance that results from burning coal, and contains a toxic suite of pollutants like arsenic and radium. In Virginia, Dominion stores this ash in unlined or poorly lined leaking pits near iconic rivers—the James, Potomac, and Elizabeth—causing serious contamination to drinking water sources and waterways.

Recent disclosures from Dominion have shown that coal ash pits across the state are too close to the groundwater — and, in fact, sitting in the groundwater,” said SELC Attorney Nate Benforado, “and that’s led to serious contamination issues.””

recent study revealed that pollution coming from the Chesterfield Power Station southeast of Richmond could be leading to an increased health risk for some visitors to the nearby Chesterfield County Dutch Gap Conservation Area.

In states across the Southeast, utilities are excavating coal ash and recycling or landfilling it through responsible measures. Recycling is an option that Governor Northam and lead lawmakers see as a win-win situation for Virginia.

“This bill gives Virginia the opportunity to stop this contamination once and for all, using cost-effective recycling while benefitting local economies,” said Benforado.

Recently, Dominion, following legislation compelling them to do so, conducted a recycling study that shows that nearly half of the ash in Virginia can be recycled in 15 years, with the remainder landfilled at a cost that is only slightly higher than less protective measures, like cap-in-place. Given the serious contamination at these sites, Dominion is now admitting that its cap-in-place strategy will be much more expensive and complicated than originally proposed, requiring perpetual operation of things like pump and treat systems, without any guarantee that the existing pollution will be stopped. Leaving the ash in these primitive pits also means communities and waterways will always be vulnerable to spills and potential failures during storms like Hurricane Florence.

In South Carolina recycling coal ash is proving to be a boon for utilities. “It’s good for the environment, it’s good for our customers and it’s good for the economy because it’s providing and sustaining jobs,” said Mollie Gore, the spokeswoman for the South Carolina utility, Santee Cooper. With proof of success in neighboring states, Governor Northam and other Virginia lawmakers seem poised to bring the economic benefit to the Commonwealth.


More detailed information about each of Dominion’s four coal ash sites across Virginia is available below.

Bremo | Chesapeake | Chesterfield | Possum Point

More News

SELC op-ed: Duke Energy doesn’t want you to know the truth about Sutton Lake

After Duke University scientists announced that Duke Energy has repeatedly polluted Sutton Lake near Wilmington with its coal ash, it responded w...

TVA announces big coal ash clean up after state, SELC sue

Millions of tons of coal ash will be moved out of unlined leaking pits upriver of Nashville thanks to a settlement announced today. The State of...

More pollution found at Duke Energy coal ash sites

Duke Energy’s own reports required to be made public by the national Coal Combustion Residuals rule (CCR rule) and filed last week disclose that...

Settlement puts lake, industrial site on path to clean up

Though a former aluminum smelting operation along the shores of North Carolina’s Badin Lake shuttered in the ‘90s, on-site hazardous waste has co...

Join us at “A Road to Change”

Registration is required for this free event. Save your spot here: selc.link/0625registration.

More Stories