Dominion Power polluting park

Trees near the popular Dutch Gap Conservation Area show signs of coal ash contamination from the millions of tons of coal ash stored nextdoor at Dominion Power's Chesterfield Power Station. (© Jamie Brunkow/James River Association)

Toxic chemicals, including high levels of arsenic, coming from Dominion Power’s adjacent Chesterfield Power Station are polluting a widely used public recreation area along the James River. People regularly boat, fish, and hike in Virginia’s Dutch Gap Conservation Area, enjoying the more than 800 acres of wetlands, woods, and diverse wildlife.

Park Pollution

Testing identified high levels of toxins, including arsenic, in a public park adjacent to Dominion Power's Chesterfield coal ash storage.

Given the high concentrations of pollutants found in the water and sediment, these ponds likely have been leaking for a long time. In the center of this recreational area, directly next to where people hike and fish, arsenic levels in the sediment are 400 times greater than the level considered safe for residential soil and 100 times greater than that for industrial facilities.

“It’s no surprise these coal ash ponds are leaking. They sit in low-lying swampland on the banks of large bodies of water,” says Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “What is surprising is that Dominion hasn’t proposed a plan to stop these leaks from flowing into a public park. Instead, it wants to leave this waste here forever.”

On behalf of its client, the James River Association, SELC is urging the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to require Dominion Power to stop the pollution coming from its unlined, leaking coal ash sites by moving its coal ash to dry, lined storage away from the river and water supplies. Dominion’s current closure plan for this facility is to simply cap these leaking coal ash pits in place, a move that is a public health concern for anyone who visits this portion of the historic James River.

Just twelve miles upstream in Richmond, lawmakers will soon consider three separate bills that, if passed, could go a long way towards finding a real, permanent solution to these leaking ponds. The bills would push utilities to clean up their coal ash in a more responsible and principled manner. Some of the proposals include:

  • digging up coal ash from unlined sites and moving it to lined, dry storage away from waterways;
  • requiring utilities like Dominion to recycle coal ash into cement or concrete products; and
  • ensuring we fully understand the problems at every coal ash site across the Commonwealth, so that we can pick an appropriate closure option.

All of these measures would go a long way to protect our health, our children’s health, and our waters from known pollution in our rivers.

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