Possum Point Pond

Dominion Energy is facing further delays to permanently burying millions of tons of coal ash in this pit, dubbed “pond D,” at its Possum Point power station outside Dumfries. Alex Koma/InsideNoVa

State leaders want to pass a law requiring coal ash at sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to be removed from unlined pits and either recycled or transferred to a safe, lined landfill.

One of the sites at the center of the legislation is the Possum Point Power Station near Dumfries. Dominion Energy currently has 4 million cubic yards of coal ash stored at one of its ponds at Possum Point.

The company consolidated the coal ash to one pond that is lined, but the lining does not meet the 2015 guidelines for proper lining established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he supports bills that aim to protect environmental quality and management of natural resources in the state, including the Water Quality and Safety Act.  

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th District, and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-2nd District, are set to introduce the Water Quality and Safety Act that will end the state’s temporary ban on permits to close coal ash sites and instead require coal ash to be recycled or moved to a landfill, according to the governor’s news release.

The General Assembly placed a moratorium in 2017 on state permits required to close a coal ash site within the Chesapeake Bay.

Dominion Energy shares the governor’s commitment to protect the environment, according to a company statement released to InsideNoVa.

“We will review the bills when they are filed and as they go through the committee process,” the statement noted. “We will answer questions and provide information to General Assembly as it works to refine and report the bills. In regard to the coal ash, our report to the General Assembly in December, laid out several environmentally responsible options that included recycling as part of our management plan. So, we share some common ground. "

The report to the General Assembly was a study of the market viability of recycling coal ash. 

Dominion received proposals from 10 companies that would reuse the coal ash in concrete or bricks, a process that encapsulates the ash and makes it safer.

The cost for Dominion to pay contractors to recycle or reuse coal ash from Possum Point would be $216 million to $727 million, and it would take seven to 11 years to complete, according to Dominion’s report.  

“This summer’s review confirmed we can innovatively recycle coal ash while creating Virginia jobs at minimal cost,” Surovell said. “Dominion’s original proposal to permanently store coal ash in ponds has been proven unwise — the time has come to resolve the coal ash issue once and for all, and to ensure clean rivers and drinking water for everyone.”

Foy, who lives near Possum Point, supports recycling and reusing the coal ash as much as possible.  

“I’m excited to work with Governor Northam on legislation to responsibly clean up coal ash, because clean air and clean water is important to all Virginians,” she said.

The proposed legislation would mean Dominion would not be able to leave the coal ash in place and cover it, a controversial process called cap in place. The EPA created guidelines on how to safely line sites that hold coal ash to prevent it from leaching and contaminating groundwater, according to the EPA’s website.

Patty Marrow, who lives near the site, is among those suing Dominion Energy because she alleges Possum Point ash ponds contaminated drinking wells and destroyed property values.

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