Dangerous pollutants from coal ash pits at Dominion Virginia Power’s Chesapeake Energy Center are contaminating the groundwater and popular recreation areas in the Elizabeth River, alleges a new suit brought by SELC and the Sierra Club today.
Last December, SELC and the Sierra Club provided Dominion with a notice of intent to sue, a requirement under the Clean Water Act that provides the utility time to address the problems and alerts the state environmental agency to the alleged violations. Neither Dominion nor the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has attempted to remedy the problem over the past three months.
For over a decade, both Dominion and DEQ have known that the more than one million cubic yards of coal ash stored at the Chesapeake site are illegally leaking high levels of arsenic, cobalt, sulfide, and other dangerous pollutants into the groundwater and two waterways popular for recreational activities—the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and Deep Creek. In the last three years alone, concentrations of arsenic, a known carcinogen, have been found in the groundwater near the site at levels as high as 30 times the state standard.
The Chesapeake power plant closed its coal-burning units at the end of last year, and the facility now stores over sixty years of coal ash waste onsite in unlined, leaking pits and a landfill built on top of the old pits. Dominion has submitted to the state environmental agency its closure plan for the ash storage facilities at the site, which proposes to continue indefinitely the decades-long contamination by leaving all coal ash in place and merely covering it with plastic and dirt. If approved by the state, the plan would only continue the long legacy of polluting the Elizabeth River.
“While other utilities in the South are leading the way by responsibly moving their coal ash into lined, dry storage away from waterways, Dominion has made no plans to stop this documented coal ash pollution.” said Deborah Murray, Senior Attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center.