On the rails: Action expected on coal ash at Possum Point

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY — As the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session kicks off, residents can expect to see legislation concerning the fate of the toxic coal ash that currently sits in unlined pits outside four of its stations across the state.

Residents and government officials heard from Dominion Virginia Power at a town hall meeting on December 11. Dominion presented information on different closure possibilities for the coal ash ponds as well as results from groundwater tests.

“The report makes pretty clear that there are multiple recycling technologies that exist that are viable including processing coal ash for use in making concrete. According to the report that’s the most viable,” said Senator Scott Surovell (D-36, Fairfax, Woodbridge, Stafford).

Dominion is still proposing capping the pits in place and performing groundwater tests as part of a potential solution for the coal ash.

“I would say cap in place is not the entire solution. We are looking at a bunch of different options and it will highly likely be a hybrid solution — recycling, landfilling, capping in place. We will be working on it with the general assembly over the next few months,” said Dominion spokesman Rob Richardson.

According to Surovell, there is some dispute to whether capping the coal ash ponds in place violates the Clean Water Act.

“According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, coal ash was found below the water table. According to them, cap in place is not legally feasible under the Clean Water Act. Additionally, there were some decisions that came down from D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that raised serious questions as to whether capping in place would be allowable under the Clean Water Act. The EPA needs to rewrite the rules before that can be explored,” Surovell said.

The water testing results showed some leakage of heavy metals associated with coal ash at all sites.

“…[Dominion Energy] showed leakage at all four sites, but not enough to create a violation at every site. From my perspective, any leakage is a problem. From Dominion’s perspective, if there’s not a violation then it’s not an issue, but from my point of view it’s kind of like any amount of poop in my cookies isn’t a good thing,” Surovell said.

“There are impacts to groundwater at Possum Point Power Station on Dominion’s property, but there are no impacts to drinking water, no impacts to surface water,” Dan Genest, a second spokesperson from Dominion Energy said.

Surovell has heard concern among his constituents about how the coal ash will be transported away from Dominion Energy recycles it.

“The biggest concern I’ve heard from people in the immediate community is the worry about how anything is going to be transported offsite,” Surovell said.

Instead of trucking out along the two-lane Possum Point Road, Surovell says he’ll fight to ensure it’s removed, instead, on rail cars that run along the train tracks adjacent to the Possum Point Power Station.

As the EPA’s deadline draws near for implementing a solution, both Dominion Energy and legislators are eager to come to a solution.

“Something should pass in the 2019 session,” Surovell said.

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