The Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to join the legal fight against Dominion Virginia Power’s plan to treat and flush an estimated 200 million gallons of coal-ash water from Possum Point power plant into Quantico Creek.
The board approved a resolution effectively allowing the county to spend up to $100,000 to pay a Richmond-based law firm, Aqua Law, to appeal a permit modification the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s State Water Control Board granted the utility last month.
The permit modification sets limits on the daily flow of treated coal ash water into the creek and details a self-monitored testing regimen Dominion must follow during and after its coal-ash pond cleanup.
The permit modification has come under fire, however, from state lawmakers, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, a regional agency that regulates recreational and commercial fishing. They contend the DEQ set insufficient limits on dangerous metals associated with coal ash, including arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium.
The Potomac Riverkeeper Network, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, announced its intent appeal the permit modification Feb. 1.
The supervisors vote came after they returned from closed session, during which they discussed either joining the Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s lawsuit against the state regulators or filing their own appeal.
Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, said the board decided to sue independently because the option offered “the strongest, most aggressive avenue to get us some resolution on this issue.”
Principi, one of the first local elected officials to sound the alarm on Dominion’s coal-ash plans, called the impending cleanup “the most significant environmental impact issue” facing Prince William in the nine years he’s been in office.
“This is one of those things that if you don’t stop it now and it happens, if 200 million gallons of coal-ash water are dumped into the Potomac, that’s irreversible,” Principi said.
Read more about the board concerns about the coal-ash permit in this week's Prince William Today.