December 9, 2015

Coal ash waste in the James River?

Please say it ain't so, but state approval of coal ash wastewater being dumped into the James River is a possibility in the near future. OK, so it will be TREATED wastewater, and not the stuff that spilled into North Carolina's Dan River last year. But my James River (because it is in MY backyard) is already brown whenever it rains and we don't need other sediments making it worse.

Dominion Virginia Power, have you not learned from Duke Energy's experience with the residues from coal burning power plants? That company's nine violations of the federal Clean Water Act resulted in $102 million in fines and restitution for illegally discharging coal ash dump waters from five NC power plants.

Dominion has to do something with the coal ash now sitting in 11 ponds before they cap them. But disposal of this nasty coal ash should have been factored into their costs and plans years ago. It does not belong in our rivers, treated or not. At the very least, Virginia's DEQ must place limits on the amount of wastewater allowed.

About 40% of the coal ash produced every year is “recycled” in what EPA and industry call “beneficial re-use.” However, there are valid concerns around the safety of re-using coal ash, as it poses another route for human and environmental exposure. Coal ash is commonly reused in a number of ways. For example, it is used as structural fill or fill for abandoned mines; as a top layer on unpaved roads; as an ingredient in concrete, wallboard, and in school running tracks; as an agricultural soil additive; and as “cinders” to be spread on snowy roads.

December 7, 2015

Sturgeon in the path of James River crossing?

The James River Riverkeeper, Jamie Brunkow, is an expert on the lower James River. So when he recently pointed out that Dominion Power's planned transmission power lines might affect the sturgeons' spawning grounds, I took notice. 

This prehistoric looking fish saved John Smith and friends from starving in the early 1600s, but I haven't seen it on any local menus of late. Nor do I want to. Sturgeons are struggling to make a comeback and I'd like to see them succeed.

And so, Dominion, please reconsider closing the Yorktown Powerstation and leave the James River alone. Why Dominion considers converting the Yorktown plant from coal to gas as "not cost-effective" is a mystery to me and many other folks. The company simply dismisses the idea without adequately explaining their rationale or the cost. Installing 17 towers and power lines across the James is not a cheap venture either.

December 2, 2015

Rising waters threaten many locations

Tidewater Virginia is the second or third location in the US (depending on who is determining) that is threatened by rising waters. Most of us know that. And I can see how much closer the James River is to my home every walk I take along the shoreline.

We also know that Bangladesh and the Seychelles may be under water in a few decades. 17 percent of Bangladesh by 2050, affecting about 18 million residents.

But a New York Times article just pointed out a little known fact about the low-lying Marshall Islands, also threatened by rising waters. Under a 1986 compact, Marshall Islands residents (about 17,000) are free to emigrate to the US due to their long military ties to Washington.