Dominion Power Agrees to Advanced, but Still Deficient Treatment of Coal Ash Wastewater at Prince William Co. Facility

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Dominion Power entered into an agreement with Prince William County late last night regarding treatment of coal ash wastewater at their Possum Point facility. Prince William was appealing the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) approval of a permit for Dominion Power to divert water from coal ash holding ponds into Quantico Creek. Concerns over this permit from the Prince William County Board of Supervisors were echoed by the state of Maryland and by environmental organizations such as the Potomac Riverkeepers and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. While Prince William County has dropped their formal appeal of the DEQ permit, the Potomac Riverkeepers’ lawsuit still stands.

With the acceptance of last night’s new plan, Dominion agreed to increased testing and treatment of wastewater that will be discharged into Quantico Creek. A major water quality concern with coal ash wastewater is the presence of metals that are ingested by local fish populations and make their way up the food chain. These metals include selenium, copper, antimony, thallium, chromium, and hexavalent chromium. According to insidenova.com, Dominion’s new plan sets new water concentration limits on some of these metals, a “66 percent reduction in selenium, a 71 percent reduction in lead, a 66 percent reduction in copper and 50 percent reductions in antimony and thallium.” Chromium and hexavalent chromium are not mentioned.

Dominion will test wastewater before discharge at a laboratory disassociated with their company, with samples now set to be taken on an hourly basis versus throughout the week. I’m happy to see Dominion cooperating with local jurisdictions to ensure improved water quality at their facilities. However, I question whether treatment of coal ash wastewater under this new plan will be enough to minimize risk to aquatic organisms to the best of Dominion’s abilities. According to the Potomac Riverkeepers, arsenic and metal concentrations under the new plan are still of concern. I would also like to see a treatment plan include all harmful metals discharged from the facility’s holding ponds into Quantico Creek, for both chromium and hexavalent chromium.

With ongoing legal battles against Dominion Power’s discharge permit, there is likely to be more news on this front in the coming months.

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