Dominion Still Facing Opposition on Possum Point Coal Ash Plan

possum_pointAs a follow up to my reporting yesterday…

Dominion Virginia Power may have settled disagreements with some foes of its coal-ash disposal plans, but it still will have the state of Maryland to contend with. Prince William County withdrew its appeal of the wastewater discharge permit from Dominion’s Possum Point power station in exchange for assurances that include a promise to test discharges hourly instead of three times a week. But neither the state of Maryland nor the Potomac Riverkeeper Network have indicated any interest in withdrawing their appeals.

“At this point, we are continuing our review of the contested permit,” said Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s secretary of the environment, in a statement Wednesday reported by the Washington Post. He said the state was also looking “for opportunities with Virginia to ensure wastewater and waste pits at Possum Point are managed for effective, long-term protection of the Potomac.”

Dean Naujoks, an environmentalist with the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, described Dominion’s concessions to Prince William County as evidence of the failure of [the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] and their permitting process, which clearly was not adequate enough to protect water quality.”

Stewart said the public pressure placed on Dominion and state regulators for making the deal possible. “We used the bully pulpit. We used public pressure and humiliation to get them to comply,” he told the Post. “Now we can assure the public that this dewatering process will be absolutely safe.” Another concession he won was the securing of $50,000 from Dominion to pay for a consultant to monitor the company’s permit process.

It is not clear from the Washington Post article what additional measures either the state of Maryland or the Potomac Riverkeepers would like to see put into place.

Update: This statement issued yesterday explains why Potomac Riverkeepers and the Southern Environmental Law Center are sticking with their appeal:

Critically, the settlement agreements announced yesterday and today only address treatment of polluted water on top of the coal ash. The agreements say nothing about management of the underlying coal ash itself. Dominion’s own records show the coal-ash pits at Possum Point have been leaking toxins into the groundwater and public waterways for more than 30 years.

Even with these agreements, Dominion is still planning to leave the coal ash in pits along the banks of the Potomac River, as well as its coal ash sites throughout Virginia — even as utilities in North and South Carolina commit to removing coal ash to safer dry, lined landfills away from waterways.


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7 responses to “Dominion Still Facing Opposition on Possum Point Coal Ash Plan”

  1. I do not have enough (or any) analytical data to know the correct technical choices. I am hoping Maryland will be constructive and helpful, rather than obstructive and political. A prior WaPo article mentioned that North Carolina has adopted more stringent coal-ash water release targets. That is not to say we should automatically apply the North Carolina rules here. It all depends on the situation, downstream use of the water etc. It’s a little bit our fault (Virginia) for not including MD into the Potomac decision process (assuming we did not do so). George Washington could have told us MD has always been a pain in the butt re: the Potomac ownership.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    would have been REAL EASY if Dominion started off saying they would equal the North Carolina approach and preempted opposition from both private and govt.

    another example of choices made that needlessly churned the issue and ended up with a public perception of Dominion trying to evade reasonable stewardship of the environment.

    at some point -you don’t “blame” others for being “political” – you man up and own the problem and deal with it responsibly .

    sorry , Dominion makes it’s own problems sometimes because apparently they have a corporate culture than is out of step with citizens expectations. If they were “going to do these things anyhow” why not get it out front at the get go and forgo this ?

    this is not a big drama.. but it IS an example of just silly unforced errors on Dominion’s part.

  3. On the Update, we’ve been talking about the water release but yes final ash disposal is another big issue that Sen. Scott Surovell had been very vocal about from the start.

    My understanding is EPA has required lined-landfill disposal for the future. The issue before us is that, for now, Dominion has the legal right to dispose as a non-hazardous waste until the new EPA regs come into effect.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” issue before us is that, for now, Dominion has the legal right to dispose as a non-hazardous waste until the new EPA regs come into effect”

    you’ve got to be kidding… this is what is going to make Dominion look good in the eyes of the public?

    are we in denial of reality here or what?

    does Dominion consider themselves immune from the “do what is right” idea?

    good grief!

  5. Dominion is a croc. They say it would be too expensive to haul the coal ash away. Bull****. They can afford to haul the coal to the electrical plants. And what do those trucks and trains haul away after they deliver the coal to the plants? Nothing? So, it wouldn’t really cost Dominion much to put the coal ash into the empty trucks and rail cars after they delivered the coal? It’s just easier to dump the crap into our rivers I guess – just ahead of an EPA ban that would forbid such stupidity.

    Once again, our best hope is that Maryland will save us from ourselves!

  6. Here’s a little info on the North Carolina coal ash. What I am reading is that several of the coal ash sites they are hauling away ash sit on drinking water supplies (water wells, or river-sourced drinking water). It also seems they have a convenient near-by disposal site (old mines). Just saying we do not necessarily have the same situation here.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    I agree it may not be an identical situation but what prevented Dominion from getting with the potential objectors ahead of time and work out an approach rather than trying to do an end run with DEQ the blocker?

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