Dominion Virginia Power is expected to begin discharging surface water Monday from its Northern Virginia coal ash lagoon into a Potomac River tributary.
The state Department of Environmental Quality posted on its website last week a notice from Dominion that it plans to start drawing down water from the ash impoundment at its Possum Point power plant on Quantico Creek.
Dominion spokesman Dan Genest said the company anticipates it will take 45 to 60 days to draw surface water from the lagoon. It will then take about a year to pump and treat the water that has comingled with the ash closer to the bottom.
Once the impoundment is drained, the company plans to cover the ash that has settled at the bottom of the pit with drainage-promoting materials, clean dirt and vegetation.
Dominion recently began draining other coal ash lagoons at its Bremo Bluff Power Station near Charlottesville.
Environmental groups, the state of Maryland and local officials have complained that the Virginia DEQ did not impose strict enough treatment standards on the lagoon discharges to protect local water quality from the harmful contaminants in coal ash.
But two of those groups, the Prince William County, VA, Board of Supervisors and the James River Association, dropped lawsuits appealing the state’s decisions after learning about the company’s plans for treating the discharges. Company officials said the treatment technology to be used would reduce levels of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals in the discharged water below what the state’s permit requires.
Dominion signed agreements with each group that commit the company to the stricter treatment standards and to increased testing, the results of which will be published on a website. Their legal obligation to the state, however, only requires the treated water to meet the less stringent permit limits.
The Prince William board’s agreement with Dominion, for example, states that the company will amend the treatment plans to include “enhanced treatment triggers” for six heavy metals, including arsenic selenium and lead. These triggers would flag the water for more treatment before it is released into Quantico Creek, where those contaminants are of particular concern in the already-impaired waterway. The limit of 100 micrograms of arsenic per liter of water to be released into Quantico Creek, for example, is 77 percent lower than is mandated by the state permit.
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