Dominion Energy agrees to pay $1.4M fine years after saying toxic water dump was legal

After the discharge of toxic coal ash water from its Possum Point power station in 2015, Dominion Energy insisted it was made in compliance with its Clean Water Act permit. However, an investigation proved otherwise. (© Julia Rendleman)

Dominion Energy has agreed to pay $1.4 million in fines after allegations that it violated seven state and federal environmental laws at two separate power stations, including an instance where Dominion secretly and illegally dumped more than 27 million gallons of polluted coal ash water into Quantico Creek.

After the discharge from its Possum Point power station in 2015, Dominion Energy insisted the discharge was made in compliance with its Clean Water Act permit. However, an investigation sparked by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and aided by the Southern Environmental Law Center, showed that was not the case.

In a news release issued Friday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring alleges, among other violations, that Dominion Energy’s discharge of polluted water into Quantico Creek violated its permit and several laws.

“It is critical that massive energy companies, like Dominion, adhere to state and federal environmental protections at every one of their facilities,” Herring said in the news release. “I hope a settlement like this sends a strong message to other energy companies that noncompliance with both state and federal environmental protections will not be tolerated in Virginia. I want to thank our partners at the EPA and DEQ for their help with this case.”

Thanks to legislation that SELC helped secure in 2019, Dominion is already required to excavate all of the coal ash in the ponds at Possum Point and Chesterfield, along with the Bremo and Chesapeake sites. While that work is just beginning, all of the coal ash must eventually be placed into modern, fully-lined landfills or recycled into cement or concrete.

The Attorney General’s settlement serves as an important reminder that Dominion’s past coal ash practices were absolutely unacceptable, and why excavation remains the only safe closure option for these leaking pits.”

—Attorney Nate Benforado

“The Attorney General’s settlement serves as an important reminder that Dominion’s past coal ash practices were absolutely unacceptable, and why excavation remains the only safe closure option for these leaking pits,” said attorney Nate Benforado. “We thank the Attorney General’s office for its work on these issues and look forward to the day when Dominion completes its cleanup, and all of the coal ash at these sites has been dealt with appropriately.”

For years, SELC has worked closely with its partners to investigate and document the significant, ongoing pollution at Possum Point and Chesterfield, as well as other sites across the Commonwealth.

After Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks discovered evidence of Dominion’s secret, contaminated discharge from a Possum Point ash pond, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and SELC urged state and federal authorities to bring an enforcement action.

At the Chesterfield site, SELC has worked alongside the James River Association, performing several rounds of sampling to document and understand the pollution flowing from Dominion’s leaking coal ash pits into the James River and adjacent public recreational area. That work culminated in a report that confirmed significant risks to human health in these polluted areas.

For years, Dominion denied any such leaks were occurring. But according to the Attorney General’s settlement, authorities and Dominion identified several areas where coal ash pollutants were leaking into the James River and Farrar Gut. This pollution, according to the Attorney General, violates State Water Control Law and Dominion’s Clean Water Act permit.

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