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Dominion's plan to pump wastewater draws concern in Va. | News

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Dominion's plan to pump wastewater draws concern in Va.

Environmental groups and residents along this Quantico Creek are asking questions and raising concerns about a Dominion Power plan to pump millions of gallons of treated wastewater from coal ash ponds into their backyard waterway.

“I have seen bald eagles at low tide wading and feeding in the areas right in front of where their coal ash ponds are and where I imagine they’re planning to discharge a lot of the wastewater,” said Bradley Caricofe, who regularly comes to the river to fish and photograph eagles. “There’s a delicate balance here that’s working because you see a lot of wildlife here. I can’t imagine that the plan that’s been proposed would help that in any way.“

The plan proposed by Dominion Power, and currently under consideration by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, involves the Possum Point plant, located along the creek on a spit of land in Prince William County. The plant stopped switched from burning coal to natural gas in 2003, but still has five man-made “ponds” full of millions of gallons of water and coal ash on site.

Earlier this year, the EPA ordered coal plants to clean up their ponds within three years (a reaction, in part, to a massive spill of coal ash in North Carolina in 2014). 

Dominion would “dewater” the coal ash by removing the water, treating it to remove potentially toxic chemicals and metals, then pump the water into the creek. No solid coal ash would be dumped, the company says. Environmental groups, including Potomac Riverkeeper, and some legislators have publicly opposed the plan.

On Tuesday night, Virginia DEQ officials held a second and final public comment session on the plan in Woodbridge, Va.  Several residents, including Quantico’s mayor, expressed disappointment with what they felt was a rushed and opaque process both for alerting the public to the plan and for its possible approval by the state in the spring.

At the meeting, Dominion’s director of Electric Environmental Services, Cathy Taylor, defended the plan.

“As DEQ developed this permit they’ve developed very stringent requirements, very frequent monitoring all designed to protect not only the waterway but human health and the environment,” Taylor told WUSA9.

Dean Naujoks of Potomac Riverkeepers accused Dominion of choosing the cheapest option to clean up the ponds, not the best.

“There are alternatives. There are ways to deal with this problem. Not leaving it in the ground where it is continuing to contaminate ground water,” Naujoks said. 

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