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.