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Coal ash ponds at Possum Point near Quantico pose risk to residents


Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new rules on the construction, maintenance and remediation of coal ash ponds which are used at coal-fired power plants.  This has consequences for the 36th District and communities along the Potomac River and other areas of the Commonwealth.

There are currently five old coal ash ponds at Dominion Resources Possum Point Power Station near Quantico, Virginia which is in the 36th District.  Coal ash or fly ash is the end product of burning coal to create electricity.  Decades ago, it was common practice to mix it with water and store it in ponds into a “slurry.”

If ponds are not properly lined with impermeable barriers, then they can leach toxic metals into ground water and surface water.  According to some sources, depending on the coal used, they can leach toxic elements such as arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with dioxins and PAH compounds.  Metals like this store in the fatty tissues of fish and can aggregate in fish consumers such as birds or humans.  Modern practice is to store ash in dry landfills.  

The Dominion ponds were built in the 1950’s to these older standards and given that the plant was converted to natural gas and oil, the ponds are no longer active, but were capped off with dirt and are still on site.  They are not being monitored but are currently leaching heavy metals into Quantico Creek and the Potomac River due to the construction methods used at the time.

The ponds recently came to light after Dominion disclosed them to the public following a spill of 50,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in February, 2014.  After the disclosure, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed suit in an effort to force Dominion to clean the ponds up.

On Wednesday, I had a meeting with several Dominion representatives about this problem and they advised me that once the rules were issued, they expected to begin remediation on these ponds in accordance with practices agreed upon with state and federal regulators, but they could not begin work until the EPA made remediation rules clear.

Yesterday, in response to the new rules, Dominion announced that they are closing all coal ash ponds currently in use.

Water quality reports from the tidal Potomac River still show impairments of numerous metals and toxins such as PCB’s and mercury.  Eliminating the sources of these contaminants is a vital step in solving these problems.  

Now that the rules are issued, I am pleased that Dominion will start making plans to remove this environmental hazard from our community, and I will continue to stay on top of this situation and push our state regulators as cleanup plans move forward.  

Delegate Scott Surovell is currently the delegate for the 44th district. He is running for incumbent Toddy Puller’s senate seat in  the 36th district against Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman.
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  • Del. Surovell, There are no coal fired power plants in Quantico. You either do not know the boundaries of the municipalities in the 36th District you are trying to represent or intentional used “Quantico” in your piece to ensure in created more “buzz”. Mayor Brown

    • Vernon Gray

      Read the article Mayor! The reporter clearly stated that coal fired plants that generate coal ash have buried the coal ash in landfills that contaminated the Quantico waterways and wells. You must be a democrat to twist the truth so wrongly; democrats lie about everything, especially when they permit coal ash from other areas to be imported into their own community for waste disposal, only to wind up poisoning the community’s water sources. We the people of Quantico should fire “Mayor Moron” who has shown he can’t read, then attacks others for telling the truth. Best wishes to Scott Surovell for covering this news and for his obvious support to the community.

      I wonder how much the coal power companies paid “Mayor Moron” to falsify and attack the facts of this story? Then again, we voters get what we deserve when we elect career politicians again and again, but expect different results.

      • Kevin Brown

        Mr. Vernon, The original article stated “There are currently five old coal ash ponds at Dominion Resources Possum Point Power Station in Quantico, Virginia which is in the 36th District.” It was changed to near after the editor of the Potomac Local was contacted and asked to correct it. Mr. Surovell is not a reporter but a candidate for the 36th Senate seat and should of correctly identified the location of the Possum Point plant as Dumfries Va. Obviously any hazardous material near Quantico is of great concern to the town leadership but the town receives it’s water from the Marine Corps Base Quantico and has passed an ordinance prohibiting the installation or use of wells and ground water. Again, using “Quantico” to create buzz around a editorial piece is not appreciated.

    • Kevin:

      Thanks for your note. I’m not sure you understand the problem.

      Dominion used coal at Possum Point for decades. The stored the coal ash in ponds. After they switched over to oil and natural gas, the coal ash ponds remained. Some are dried out and covered in grass others are not.

      The coal ash is still there leaking heavy metals into the ground. Dominion self-reported this to DEQ and is in litigation with the Southern Environmental Law Center about it right now.

      I’m happy to set up a meeting with you and Dominion representatives if you’d like to have a meeting about it.

      I look forward to working with you on these problems.

      • Representative Surovell,

        I appreciate your concern regarding coal ash contamination. We have very serious concerns about Dominion’s coal ash ponds as well. Dominion’s own monitoring data shows its coal ash ponds have been seeping and leaking into Quantico creek and the Potomac River for decades. These unlined pits filled with toxic metals are also leaching into ground water. As long as these ponds remain unlined and located along Quantico Creek, they will continue to leak into the river. But an even greater concern that potentially exists is contamination of drinking water wells located next to every Dominion coal ash pond. Unfortunately, Dominion has not provided all of its monitoring data to the VA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). So we don’t understand the full extent of contamination.

        After the Duke coal ash pond spill into the Dan River last year, NC Lawmakers required testing of drinking water wells adjacent to all Duke coal ash ponds. Despite repeated assurances from Duke Energy and NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) that drinking water supplies near coal ash ponds were safe, new data revealed extensive contamination of drinking water wells at 8 out of 14 Duke power plant locations or approximately 75% of the drinking water wells tested. Last week, NC DENR was forced to reverse its previous statements and issue warnings to residents not to drink or cook with contaminated water.

        In light of this new public health concern, Virginia Lawmakers should be requesting all of Dominion’s ground water monitoring data and asking our state agencies (DEQ) to test drinking water wells around ALL of Dominion’s coal ash ponds as NC has done before deciding the best way to remediate these toxic coal ash dumps. It is premature to sign off on “cap in place” closure plans (leave coal ash ponds in place with no lining and placing a cover over them) that Dominion is advocating. Cap in place will not prevent ongoing leaks from these ponds into groundwater and nearby waterways. As the article below indicates, coal ash ponds are a serious threat to public health. Removing the coal ash to lined landfills away from our rivers and drinking water supplies is the right way to go. Please see article below.;_ylt=A0LEVjaS5UhVOoYAkpsnnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTBybnV2cXQwBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkAw–

      • Kevin Brown

        Del. Surovell, I appreciate the offer but will contact our delegate (Del Futrell) or Mayor Foreman if we needed assistance. The editor of the Potomac Local corrected their page but your blog still incorrectly states “There are currently five old coal ash ponds at Dominion Resources Possum Point Power Station in Quantico, Virginia which is in the 36th District.” Mr. Merrick’s well intentioned (yet inaccurate) comment below that “It’s a pity that our US Marines in Quantico are exposed to toxic water from coal ash.” is a great example of my original point. There is nothing that currently shows that the residents of the Town of Quantico or the Marines and their families station at Marine Corps Base Quantico have been exposed to any toxic material related to the coal ash ponds. And to write an opinion piece about an issue that isn’t even in your district, and try to attach it to the active duty Marines and Civilian serving at Quantico in order to cause alarm is suspect.

  • Robert Merrick

    It’s a pity that our US Marines in Quantico are exposed to toxic water from coal ash. The US Navy has a system on their new aircraft carrier (CVN77?) that can eliminate all coal residue using a very high temperature plasma, so why doesn’t the EPA use a modified version of the Navy’s Plasma Waste Disposal System to clean up the old coal ponds and the new coal ash waste being generated today?!

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