News | December 3, 2015

State environmental agency could ok dumping contaminated coal ash wastewater in Virginia rivers

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has recently issued two woefully inadequate draft permits that would allow Dominion Virginia Power to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated coal ash wastewater from its Bremo Power Station into the James River and from Possum Point Power Station into Quantico Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River. The lax draft permits would allow the wastewater to enter the river laden with toxic heavy metals at levels exceeding the state’s own standards for protecting human and environmental health.

“It is troubling that DEQ drafted permits that do not comply with state and federal requirements,” said SELC Senior Attorney Brad McLane. “Dominion is being offered a free pass to put cancer-causing and toxic metals and other pollutants in the river at levels above state health standards.”

Last April, Dominion announced its plans to close the coal ash ponds at four facilities in the state by simply putting a lid on the problem. An early step in this flawed plan is receiving the permits in question from DEQ to empty the polluted wastewater into adjacent waterways.

The two draft permits issued by DEQ could set a worrisome precedent for how the agency plans to deal with the problem of coal ash wastewater throughout the Commonwealth. SELC and its partners, the James River Association and Potomac Riverkeeper Network, are asking DEQ to put much more stringent requirements on Dominion, including the use of readily available technologies to treat the coal ash wastewater and limit the flow of wastewater into waterways.

Coal ash is the toxic-laden by-product of burning coal for energy and, for many years, the common practice was to store it in huge, unlined pits along the rivers where coal-fired power plants are typically built. Two major spills in recent years dumped over a billion gallons of toxic coal ash stored at power plants into the Dan River in North Carolina and the Clinch River in Tennessee. SELC continues to advocate for utilities across the southeast to protect communities and the environment by moving coal ash to dry, lined storage away from rivers and other waterways.

Use these links to submit your comments to DEQ on these draft permits for Dominion's Bremo and Possum Point Power Stations by December 14.

To read comments submitted by SELC, click here.