Tuesday 26 September 2017

And others wonder, as coal operators including Dominion and Appalachian Power begin the process of closing ash ponds from Russell County to Chesapeake to meet federal requirements, why the state isn’t conducting more widespread testing of nearby private wells, as the North Carolina legislature required in 2014 after the Duke Energy coal ash spill into the Dan River.

“We’re very concerned about this. The tests are completely inconsistent,” said Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and a prominent Republican who plans to run for governor.

Potomac RiverkeeperDean Naujoks, who spent more than two decades doing environmental work in North Carolina, including on the Dan River spill, said that, in discussions during the past year on closing Virginia’s coal ash ponds, he implored the state DEQ to get Dominion Virginia Power to pay for testing of private wells — something he considered a “very reasonable ask.”

“I just thought this response from the state was really inadequate,” he said. “They don’t really have a strategy, and it’s because Dominion doesn’t want them to have a strategy. ... We’re talking about peoples’ lives and their property values and public health.”


(Published in Richmond Times Dispatch, May 15, 2016)



Researchers at Duke University who say they have developed a method to link water contamination to coal ash have taken samples near Dominion Virginia Power facilities in Fluvanna and Chesterfield counties and expect to publish the results in a scientific journal after a peer-review process is complete.

Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power are currently in the process of closing ash ponds, where waste left over from burning coal to generate electricity is mixed with water to keep it from becoming airborne, at six facilities across the state.

The process of “dewatering” the ponds, including treating the water to levels specified by permits approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and discharging it into the James River and Quantico Creek, has begun at the Bremo station and at Possum Point in Prince William County. Dominion has also committed to additional treatment at each facility pursuant to separate agreements with the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and the James River Association. However, appeals by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the state of Maryland of the water-discharge permits issued for Possum Point are still pending.


(Published in Richmond Times Dispatch, May 16, 2016)




Jamie Brunkow, the lower James riverkeeper for the James River Association, said he worries about how metals from coal ash could harm the endangered sturgeon that are making a comeback in portions of the river.

Beyond the water, which Dominion has promised will be cleaned to standards that protect human and aquatic life, Brunkow worries about the possibility that toxins will continue to seep into the river and groundwater if the ponds are closed in place.

“It’s a very big concern. It’s an unresolved question as to what effect it’s already having,” said Brunkow, who hopes the utility’s recent settlement with the association and the Southern Environmental Law Center to improve water treatment for the ponds at Bremo Power Station set a precedent the utility will follow at Chesterfield.

“I would hope we would have these strong conditions in the permit early on without having to go through the process of negotiating these limits. I think we’ve been successful at Bremo in setting a new bar, so that’s encouraging.”


(Published in Richmond Times Dispatch, March 26, 2016)