Dominion Tweaks Coal-Ash Dewatering Process

Coal ash pond at Possum Point Power Station.
Coal ash pond at Possum Point. Photo credit: Prince William Times and Potomac Riverkeepers Network.

Dominion Virginia Power has temporarily shut down the $35 million water treatment facility at its Possum Point Power Station as it adjusts the process of cleaning water from its coal ash ponds,

Levels of selenium, a chemical element that can be toxic at high levels, rose above a “trigger” point specified in agreement between Dominion and Prince William County, reported the Prince William Times. However, Dominion was never in violation of its water quality permit, which requires the company to test treated water for selenium and a dozen other coal-ash contaminants.

Dominion officials attribute the pause in de-watering the coal ash ponds to “lessons learned” from operational challenges at Possum Point. Changes detailed in a revised engineering report, which must be approved by state and county officials, should result in discharges of selenium and zinc even lower than called for in the water permit. Also, the water-treatment facility should operate more efficiently.

“We decided to stop, redesign and update,” Jason Williams, environmental manager, told Bacon’s Rebellion. The company plans to switch from a geotube technology to clarifiers and settling tanks like the system in operation at the Bremo Power Station, he said. Also, by adding two more water-holding tanks like at Bremo, there will be less stop-and-go in the water discharge. “It will be much more efficient than firing up the system, waiting for test data, and discharging.”

Dewatering should resume early next year, pending regulatory approvals.

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9 responses to “Dominion Tweaks Coal-Ash Dewatering Process”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Nothing to worry about, folks. Let’s all move on now.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Never fear – between the ever-vigilant Va DEQ and the newly revamped Trump EPA – no sweat… whatever Dominion proposes will be just fine – MORE than acceptable!

    we don’t need no stinking 35 million dollars worth of that nasty job-killing Obama “regulation”!!!

  3. Stephen L Tabone Avatar
    Stephen L Tabone

    There is plenty to be concerned about regarding Dominion’s plans for the coal ash at Possum Point. See and watch the video at:

  4. It’s fascinating to see how predictably snarky the comments can be when the target is Dominion Virginia Power. In the effort to generate and distribute electricity at low cost, DVP has a good track record. In environmental compliance, DVP also has a good record provided you agree the laws and regulations they are complying with are adequate. Obviously the snark heaped on DVP really belongs on those who passed the laws and those who wrote the regulations. The problem, as readers here know well, is that those regulations are politically unpopular and sometimes based on controversial science as well — and not surprisingly, DVP sticks strictly to doing only what is required, not more, because its regulators usually dis-allow costs incurred to do more.

    The broader problem, as certain readers clearly don’t seem to understand, is that it’s one thing to lean on corporate American to practice good citizenship in the absence of rules; quite another to prescribe one set of rules, yet criticize and blame based on another. In this day of regulation of just about everything, attacking businesses for not volunteering to do what the government doesn’t require them to do is seen as attacking people’s jobs and people’s beliefs and it’s how we got to the election we just had. ‘Those people’ aren’t snarky; they just vote.

    So, I’ve read the article in the magazine of the Prince William Conservation Association, linked above, and I’m all for keeping the pressure on VA DEQ to require a proper cleanup of these old ash ponds; but . . . what is ‘proper’, and who are you snark-meisters to convict DVP for not doing it to your criteria instead of DEQ’s? Take selenium levels for instance: according to Wikipedia, “Selenium salts are toxic in large amounts, but trace amounts are necessary for cellular function in many organisms, including all animals. Selenium is an ingredient in many multivitamins and other dietary supplements, including infant formula.” So, is the selenium in DVP’s discharge toxic? DVP has suspended its cleanup because it needs to remove more selenium than its current methodology allows, and you dump all over them for — for what? for complying with “the ever-vigilant Va DEQ and the newly revamped Trump EPA”? No, not even that, because apparently the nasty utility doesn’t bother to comply, because “whatever Dominion proposes will be just fine.” It’s all a lie; don’t believe what they say; “Nothing to worry about, folks.”

    Is your conspiracy theory better than the other guy’s conspiracy theory? Than Trump’s, or Steve Bannon’s, conspiracy theories? Why do you lower yourselves to their level? Isn’t this sort of disparagement of government and media factfinding exactly what brought us to the point where nobody believes anyone acts in good faith any more? Whom should I trust but the government agency ‘entrusted’ with the responsibility to decide what is an allowable level of selenium to be discharged into the Potomac River? Make DEQ do its job, sure, but don’t crap on the system, fix the system!

    1. CA had not too many years ago discovered a problem with selenium in that low levels apparently can cause birth defects in water foul/ducks. So selenium treatment has become more common in some regions.

      1. PS- Lets face it getting rid of the impounds is probably the way to go, as far as reducing wildlife impact.

      2. I don’t doubt it’s got negatives. My point simply is, someone has to decide those tradeoffs, and then we have to live by that decision, not hold DVP to a double standard.

  5. Re: Selenium – I probably commented at the time that I felt the Dominion treatment was pretty much basic light treatment. Selenium is a tough nut to crack but there are lots of folks in CA treating water for selenium now. The problem with Selenium it hits the ducks/wildlife. Probably a river situation is not so bad with the flows as far as dispersing.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Re; “snark” .. okay I’ll confess my sins… but Peter started it and I just lost control!


    but here’s the problem.

    Does anyone consider Dominion a “leader” when it comes to dealing with the environment ?

    Is that a fair question?

    I picture them as playing a PR game and claiming they are trying to save the ratepayers money – but then look at the other things they are doing that are COSTING ratepayers money so it’s not a honestly earned virtue – just a card they play when they can.

    I just think they are not THAT interested in doing the RIGHT THING.

    It says REAMS when they essentially hide behind DEQ and then sign a separate agreement with PW for lower emissions. If they were doing the right thing – they should not hide behind DEQ nor make separate agreements – they should stand for what they think is right – and one way you do that is by showing what other companies are doing about selenium and demonstrate without question – that you are a leader not a follower.

    So no, I DON’T think they are doing a “good job” even though their own PR folks think so!


    I want to see the folks who live nearby and are affected – come out and say “Dominion” is forthright and upfront and even though we might disagree we respect their position. THAT’s what would make me less snarky.

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