Press Release | February 1, 2016

Dominion’s License to Pollute Potomac River with Contaminated Coal Ash Wastewater To Be Appealed

Charlottesville, VA—On behalf of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, the Southern Environmental Law Center notified Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that it will appeal in Virginia circuit court the permit allowing Dominion to legally pollute Quantico Creek and the Potomac River with more than 150 million gallons of coal ash wastewater from the Possum Point Power Station that is contaminated with high levels of toxic metals. 

The notice of appeal came in response to the recent approval of the lax permit by the State Water Control Board. The state sanctioned Dominion to dump almost 3 million gallons per day of coal ash wastewater laden with harmful elements at levels exceeding human and environmental health standards. The permit allows Dominion to pollute Quantico Creek and Potomac River with arsenic, a cancer-causing chemical, at levels up to three times higher the state’s own safety threshold to protect aquatic life and 30 times higher than comparable water permits in neighboring North Carolina.

The conservation groups are challenging the failure of the permit to require Dominion to abide by the Clean Water Act and to use readily available water treatment technologies that remove most of the toxic metals from the wastewater before it is released into a waterway used by many for fishing, boating, and birdwatching. 

“The Commonwealth of Virginia has given Dominion a free pass to dump hundreds of millions of contaminated wastewater from its coal ash ponds and threaten the health of our Nation’s River and those who rely upon it. We have no choice but to appeal this very bad decision,” said Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks.

Last April, Dominion announced its flawed plan to deal with its leaking coal ash dumps throughout the state, which includes draining the highly-polluted wastewater into nearby rivers and then just covering up the remaining toxic ash without the necessary safeguards to prevent leaking of contaminants into nearby groundwater and surface waters.

As the first state permit of its kind, a worrisome precedent could be set for how the state will deal with the problem of contaminated coal ash wastewater that is currently stored in unlined, leaking pits next to rivers throughout the Commonwealth. 

“When Duke Energy illegally polluted the Dan River in North Carolina and Virginia with over 25 million gallons of contaminated coal ash slurry, it faced criminal charges and millions in fines. Two years after that catastrophe Dominion wants to intentionally dump six times the amount of coal ash wastewater into the Potomac River, and our state environmental agency gave it a license to do so,” said Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center.

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Press Contacts

Greg Buppert

Senior Attorney

Phone: 434-977-4090