Dominion’s solution for leaking coal ash: Just put a lid on it

Dominion's Chesapeake Energy Center (© Bill Tiernan, Virginian-Pilot)

Dominion Virginia Power's recently announced plans to close the coal ash ponds at four Virginia power stations fail to stop the pollution of groundwater and nearby waterways and will allow the toxic coal ash to continue to leak out of unlined pits at all four sites. 

Dominion plans to close ponds at four of its power plants: Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County, Chesapeake Energy Center in Chesapeake, Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield County, and Possum Point Station in Prince William County. Of the eleven coal ash ponds at these four facilities, ten ponds are completely unlined and allow the toxic pollutants to freely leach out into the surroundings. Only one pond has a partial clay liner around the sides. At all of these sites, covering up the coal ash and calling the sites “closed” will not stop the pollution.

"Dominion’s decision to just put a lid on the problem will not prevent the coal ash from leaking out of the bottom of these unlined pits,” said Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney with Southern Environmental Law Center. “Contaminants from Dominion's coal ash, such as arsenic and cadmium, have been polluting Virginia's rivers for decades and this will continue for years to come under this plan. Our communities deserve to be protected from the toxic threat of coal ash by moving coal ash to dry, lined storage safely away from our waterways, just like a modern landfill.” 

Last month, Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit in federal court against Dominion for the leaking of coal ash pollutants from the Chesapeake Energy Center into the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and Deep Creek in violation of the Clean Water Act. Concentrations of arsenic, a known carcinogen, were found in the groundwater near the site at levels as high as 30 times the state standard.

Read more in an article by John Reid Blackwell in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (April 1, 2015).

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