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Coal ash is solid waste under federal law and regulation, not hazardous waste

Letter to the editor

To the Editor:

You recently published a letter to the editor from the chair of the Prince William Democratic Committee regarding Dominion’s request for a water permit modification for Possum Point Power Station that will enable the company to close its coal ash ponds at the facility.  

Please know that we are not in the least taken aback by people who are expressing their genuine concern for the protection of waterways and our environment — natural treasures we’ve inherited and are rightfully expected to protect for posterity.

For the record, there are a number of assertions that were expressed in Mr. Wiggins’ letter that beg for factual clarity and context.

First of all, it needs to be pointed out that neither environmental science nor engineering has a political persuasion. They are based on science and facts.  Here are the facts about this permit application:

?Coal ash is solid waste under federal law and regulation, not hazardous waste.  Dominion did not decide this; President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency did –  in December 2014 after completing a comprehensive and exhaustive review.

?The draft permit is designed to protect water quality and to enforce water quality standards, which are designed to protect public health, the environment, and the beneficial uses of the water—fishing and boating for example. There has been a public information meeting and a public hearing already held about this permit. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is analyzing the public comments to decide if any changes to the draft permit are needed.

?Possum Point Power Station has been a good neighbor for decades.  In 2003, the coal units at the station were converted to natural gas to reduce air emissions and to improve regional air quality.  The plan Dominion has developed to close its ash ponds will ensure that they are closed as quickly as possible.  By contrast, ash pond closure in other states will take more than a decade, will involve countless truck trips down local roads and busy highways, and assumes substantial “beneficial reuse” of coal ash that may not materialize.  Dominion has a plan to close its coal ash ponds promptly, safely, and permanently, and in an environmentally responsible manner, as required under the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules governing coal ash pond closure.

Finally, it can’t be overstated: Our desire for the health and safety and protection of our environment is in lock step with the concerns that have been expressed by Mr. Wiggins and others. We are committed to closing the Possum Point ash ponds in a responsible manner consistent with a company whose ideals are rooted in environmental stewardship.

Thank you for the opportunity to share the facts about this permit application.

Pamela Faggert is the Chief Environmental Officer/ V.P. Corporate Compliance at Dominion Resources Services

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  • Harry Wiggins

    So, Dominions proposal to dump heavy metals in to Quatico Creek, the Potomac River and eventually in to the Chesapeake Bay is good environmental stewardship? Dominion is a bully company, just ask the residents of Wise County who got a super polluting coal power plant against their wishes. Dominion gets a way with being a bully having contributed legal bribes (campaign contributions) totaling more than $13,000,000 to politicians. This is a bad company choosing the cheapest way to close a polluting coal ash pond, when you think of what Dominion is planning to do to Quantico Creek, think Love Canal.

    • Wise County Resident

      In regard to Dominion being a “bully”: I would encourage Mr Wiggins to heed his own advice and ask the residents of Wise County for their opinions before he uses them to try to make his unfounded case.

      • Harry Wiggins

        As you are aware if you are really from Wise and are not Mayor Foreman the Wise BOCS fought Dominion unsuccessfully against building the hyper polluting coal plant in Wise.

  • Mayor Brown

    Ms. Faggert’s comment that “Coal ash is solid waste under federal law and regulation, not hazardous waste.” is quite silly. Coal ash may not meet the EPA’s technical definition of hazardous waste but it is certainly hazardous to people and the environment. You would only need to Google “coal ash” to see it is not harmless… and a more detailed review of the EPA regulations regarding how coal ash should be handled would reveal to any reasonable person that it shouldn’t be dumped into the Quantico Creek and Potomac River. It is also clear that there are other options for handling the coal ash but I would guess they are not as cost effective. It can be trucked off site and treated, the current ash ponds can be retrofitted to ensure the coal ash is no released into the environment. The false narrative that dumping the coal ash into the creek is the only option doesn’t “hold water”. I think Ms. Faggert and Dominion Virginia Power should give the Town of Quantico and the surrounding communities more time to do their own research… which is what someone would expect from a “good neighbor”. #NOCOALASHFORQTOWN

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