80% of Virginia Voters Polled Support Stronger Coal Ash Protections at Possum Point

Prince William County Voters to Dominion Power: Recycle/Move to Safe, Lined Landfills

Contact: Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper, 336 809 6041, Dean(at)prknetwork.org

Washington, D.C. (February 7, 2017) A recent poll conducted by the Cromer Group revealed overwhelming support for alternatives to Dominion Power’s plan to permanently dispose of 4 million tons of harmful coal ash at its Possum Point power plant near Quantico, Virginia.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality just released a draft permit that would allow the coal ash to be left in a waste pit that doesn’t meet federal standards designed to prevent industrial landfills from contaminating groundwater, despite the fact that the same pit has a history of leaking coal ash metals into nearby groundwater. 

In the poll of Prince William registered voters, 80% said they “would be more likely to support a plan to move this coal ash to a safe, fully lined modern landfill somewhere else away from homes and drinking water supplies…”

The poll revealed strong support for local government oversight, with 80% of respondents saying the Prince William Board of Supervisors should require Dominion to come up with alternative solutions other than capping the coal ash and leaving it in place before they get approval for a permit to store the coal ash. The Board of Supervisors next meet on February 14th and proponents of safe disposal of coal ash are expected to attend.

“Coal ash contains a long list of toxins and heavy metals linked to cancer, so it’s just common sense that Dominion should be required to store it in a landfill with at least the same level of protection as the landfill your household trash goes to,” said Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper. “But that hasn’t happened with Dominion Power. When one of the biggest campaign contributors in Virginia is also one of the biggest polluters in Virginia, regulatory action doesn’t always happen as soon as we’d like.”

Dominion has been plagued with problems relating to its coal ash waste at Possum Point in recent months, ranging from problems with its dewatering of the largest coal ash pond to ongoing concerns about coal ash metals leaching through groundwater into neighboring properties and Quantico Creek. Public concerns were heightened when Dominion’s own monitoring results at the plant, and independent lab analysis of the drinking water of neighboring families revealed the presence of arsenic and other carcinogenic heavy metals associated with coal ash in groundwater and people’s private drinking water wells.

“When I showed our lab results to the same Virginia Tech lab that confirmed the high lead levels in Flint, Michigan we heard about in the news, the advice I was given was to immediately stop drinking the water and move,” said Dan Marrow, who has lived next to Dominion’s Possum Point power plant for over 20 years. “Hearing that after raising our children on well water we thought was safe was the biggest shock of my life. We had no idea Dominion was poisoning us.”

After initially denying any link between its coal ash waste pits and this contamination, Dominion subsequently announced it may offer financial assistance to several families near Possum Point to connect to city waterlines. 

The public will have two opportunities to comment in person:

  • February 14th, 2pm and again at 7:30pm at the Prince William Board of Supervisors meeting at Prince William Count McCoart Building, 1 County Complex Court, Woodbridge, VA 22192
  • February 16th, 7 pm at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality hearing at Potomac High School 3401 Panther Pride Drive, Dumfries, VA 22026

Public comments are being accepted through March 10th and can be submitted by email to:  PossumPointPowerStationWastePermit@deq.virginia.gov

The poll can be found here: http://bit.ly/2lltaZH

More information about coal ash can be found here: http://www.potomacriverkeepernetwork.org/possum-point

Alexandria's Sewage Discharges Threaten Public Health and the Potomac River

City’s Own Water Samples Show Potomac Unsafe for Human Contact

Washington, DC (January 10, 2017) Just before the holidays, Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) submitted formal comments to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding the City of Alexandria’s effort to address untreated sewage pollution emanating from its antiquated “Combined Sewer System” into the Potomac River and nearby tributaries. PRKN is calling on Virginia DEQ to hold a public hearing and invite formal public comment on Alexandria’s illegal and inadequate plan, which fails to address a discharge point near Old Town which dumps about 70 million gallons of raw sewage and polluted stormwater into the river each year. 

PRKN’s review of water quality testing done by Alexandria in Oronoco Bay, the location of this dumping into the Potomac, reveals that 51% of the City’s samples showed fecal bacteria at unsafe levels in the river, rendering the Potomac frequently unsafe for human contact. 

“The citizens of Alexandria know dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac —- a source of drinking water for millions of people — is wrong. Alexandria’s political leadership has proposed pushing this problem off for the next generation to deal with. It’s unacceptable — the health of our nation’s river is something we take very seriously," says Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. “Clean water is a fundamental right for our children. Our high school crew teams and communities down river should be able to enjoy the river without risk of swimming in raw sewage.”

The levels of e.coli in the river violated Virginia state water quality standards in place to ensure that people recreating in state waters would not become ill from exposure to high levels of bacteria. The City’s sampling was done from 2007-2012, then discontinued. Since Alexandria has not taken concrete steps to address this pollution, it is highly likely that the same level of pollution and resulting public health risk continues today. PRKN opposes the current plan, and is calling on Virginia DEQ to reject the city’s plan, and require a comprehensive solution to Alexandria’s sewage pollution problem that minimizes or eliminates all dumping of untreated sewage by 2027.

“Virginia environmental regulators have a duty to enforce state and federal law, to protect the public from harmful fecal bacteria and stop dumping of untreated sewage into the Potomac,” said Phillip Musegaas, Vice President of Programs and Litigation at PRKN. “We fully expect DEQ to do its job and compel Alexandria to clean up its sewage mess once and for all, but we are ready to fight if the state doesn’t stand up for clean water.”

PRKN’s formal comments are supported by an independent consultant’s report, which includes the following key conclusions:

  • Recent rainfall data shows that the proposed storage tunnels for capturing sewage before it’s dumped to Hunting Creek, a Potomac tributary, are too small to reduce sewage discharges to the maximum allowed of 4 per year – the city’s own analysis indicates at least 10 CSO events per year due to storm events with greater than 1.0 inch of rainfall. This would violate EPA’s national guidance for reducing sewage pollution to comply with the Clean Water Act.
  • The 3 million gallon storage tank proposed for a third discharge point suffers from a similar deficiency. Based on the same rainfall data, the tank would not be effective in limiting CSO discharges to 4 per year – the analysis shows that at least 10 CSO events would continue to occur, based on rain events of more than 1.1 inches. This would also violate federal law.
  • Alexandria’s insistence on using 1984 as the typical rainfall year for determining the frequency of future sewage discharges is inadequate and misleading, because it fails to account for the larger size and duration of storms during more recent years (1994-2013), thereby deliberately underestimating the number of untreated sewage discharges that will continue to occur once the storage tunnels and tanks have been completed.
  • Alexandria’s proposal to stage the construction of the storage tank and tunnel over 19 years is completely unreasonable, and will fail to achieve any meaningful reduction in sewage pollution in the near future. For example, the construction of the storage tunnel for Outfalls 003-004 extends over 9 years, to build a tunnel less than 3000 feet long. This works out to only 1.2 feet of tunnel construction per day.

Contact: Nathan Ackerman, nathan@prknetwork.org, 202 669 2323

Attachments:

 

Our Statement on Dominion's Plan to Run Water Lines to Homes Around Possum Point

Statement from the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Today it came to our attention that Dominion Virginia Power is making some effort to extend municipal water lines to homes near the Possum Point Power Station. Our testing in the past has identified contaminants in well water there that are commonly linked with coal ash pollution.

You can attribute the following statement to Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper:

“I believe this is an acknowledgment by Dominion that the coal ash ponds at Possum Point have been contaminating groundwater, which then contaminates drinking water wells. Dominion has consistently dismissed the results of our independent water testing, even when the state testing found the same pollutants in these wells. Why would Dominion now undertake this expense? We believe that Possum Point’s coal ash ponds caused this contamination, and only effective solution for permanently solving the problem is the excavation and removal of all of the site’s ash to dry, lined storage.”

You can attribute the following statement to Greg Buppert, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who has worked extensively on issues involving Possum Point.

“Dominion has applied to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a permit to bury the coal ash in place. This development is another reason DEQ should not rush forward with that solid-waste permit. There are too many unanswered questions about the conditions at this site. Past groundwater testing at Possum Point has shown that the partial clay liner in Pond D won’t stop the migration of contaminants, and new groundwater monitoring wells show elevated levels of boron, cobalt, nickel and other metals. DEQ should collect at least a year’s worth of new groundwater data before considering a solid-waste permit for Possum Point.”

Contact:

Greg Buppert, SELC, (434) 977-4090

Mike Mather, SELC Communications, (434) 977-4090; mobile/text (434) 333-9464 or mmather@selcva.org

Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, (336) 809-6041

Potomac Riverkeeper Network Posts $1000 Reward for Information Identifying Source of Potomac River Oil Plume

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper

Phone:    336 809 6041

Email:      Dean@prknetwork.org  

Potomac Riverkeeper Network Posts $1000 Reward for Information Identifying Source of Potomac River Oil Plume

Washington, D.C. (December 1, 2016)  Potomac Riverkeeper Network announced today that it is offering a $1000 reward for information identifying those responsible for the plume of pollution in the Potomac River that forced area water utilities to take measures to protect the drinking water of millions of area residents this week.

An oily substance floating on the surface of the river was identified last Sunday about 45 miles upstream of the District, near Point of Rocks, Maryland. River models predict that it could arrive in the District as soon as today or tomorrow. Local utilities have set booms, closed intakes and/or increased the frequency of monitoring to avoid introducing the unidentified pollution into municipal water supplies.

“Our rivers are vital to our health and our economy. When individuals or corporations use these public resources as their private dump, it impacts us all. That’s why we’re offering a reward to encourage anyone who saw something, to say something,” says Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper.

“The sheer size of our watershed demands that citizens play a role in its protection. Our organization was founded on the idea that those closest to our rivers — through their work or their recreation — are best able to identify and prevent pollution. The more people realize how valuable our rivers are, and play a role in protecting them, the more likely we are to prevent situations like this,” says Jeff Kelble, President of Potomac Riverkeeper Network.

The EPA is the lead federal agency coordinating the response and spearheading the investigation to identify the source of the pollution. Potomac Riverkeeper Network will pass along information it receives to EPA to aid in their investigation.

Tips about potential sources of this pollution can be reported to Potomac Riverkeeper Network at http://www.potomacriverkeepernetwork.org/report-pollution-how-to/

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Headquartered in Washington, DC, Potomac Riverkeeper Network and its three Riverkeepers; Potomac, Shenandoah, and Upper Potomac, work to protect the public's right to clean water in our rivers and streams. We stop pollution to promote safe drinking water, protect healthy river habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment. Over the last decade, our call for clean drinking water has reached millions of residents living in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. www.prknetwork.org  

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Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Announces Partnership Effort to Preserve the Savage River

Potomac Riverkeeper Network proudly announces a partnership-based effort to preserve the pristine nature of Savage River and its watershed. For over a year the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper has been working with the Mid-Atlantic Council Trout Unlimited and the Savage River Watershed Association. The focus of this effort has been to explore options and strategies for protecting the waters—and the way of life—that characterize the picturesque, wild, and winding Savage River in Western Maryland’s Garrett County.

To move forward with this effort, a community organization called the Savage River Wild & Scenic Work Group was recently formed. “Our goal is to develop a holistic management plan for the Savage River watershed that will preserve the natural wild beauty and maintain the pristine water quality for future generations,” said Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls. “We have spent many months researching ways to coordinate and align all those with a stake in protecting the river, and felt that the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers Program was a good fit because of the community-based approach,” continued Brent.  

The Partnership Wild & Scenic Program, which is coordinated by the National Park Service, is based on a locally responsive, cooperative and collaborative process that reflects the specific characteristics of the river and surrounding communities. The program is paced slowly to allow time for careful consideration of all views and interests and typically takes three to four years to complete.

In keeping with the slow pace of the program, the first steps are very modest. They involve sharing information with the community and making a request to have a study done on the Savage River to determine if it is eligible and suitable for consideration as a National Wild and Scenic River. 

“We really want to take our time in this process and are working to share information with key stakeholders and collect community input and feedback,” said Tom Wolfe, vice-president of the Savage River Watershed Association. “To help do this, we just mailed an information packet and short survey to all landowners who live right on or near the Savage River or Reservoir,” continued Wolfe.

The Workgroup is also planning to hold a public meeting by mid-November to talk about the Wild & Scenic Partnership opportunity and share the results of the property owner survey. In addition, the group recently launched their website. More information on the Savage River, the Wild and Scenic opportunity, and a link to the survey can be found at: www.thesavageriver.org.

For media inquiries, please contact Brent Walls at Brent(at)upperpotomacriverkeeper.org or call 240-366-1875. 

Potomac Riverkeeper Network Partners With National Park Service to Celebrate Area Rivers

Paddle Potomac! Paddle Shenandoah! Features 12 Paddle Events over 11 Days, June 8-19

WASHINGTON, DC May 20, 2016 - Potomac RIverkeeper Network, in partnership with the National Park Service, is organizing Paddle Potomac! Paddle Shenandoah!, an unprecedented series of canoe and kayak adventures lasting from a few hours to a few days, and for all skill levels. A celebration of area waterways, the trips mix history, education and recreation.

“The best way to appreciate our rivers is by being on them, and that is what Paddle Potomac! Paddle Shenandoah! is all about,” says Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. “We’ll see areas of our rivers most people never experience.” 

Accessibility is a priority for the event, and trips are available from the Upper Potomac and the Shenandoah all the way to the Lower Potomac. Coordination with nearly a dozen outfitters allows most trips to be enjoyed without the need for participants to own their own gear. 

“We’ve made it as easy as possible for people to be part of this event. If you want to enjoy the river, but don’t want to drag equipment around or spend hours planning, this is the way to go. We've taken care of that,” says Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf who will kick off the event with a trip from Island Ford to Elton Landing on the Shenandoah River on June 8th. 

The Potomac is the only river in the U.S. that includes portions of five national trails—the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Start-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Trail, and the Appalachian Trail.  

“We’re especially pleased that our paddle trips will be part of the National Park Service’s Centennial celebrations,” says Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls. “I will be leading our overnight camping trip at Paw Paw Bends, an area steeped in history.”

Paddle Potomac! Paddle Shenandoah! is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series event presented nationally by Toyota and locally by the National Park ServiceMicrosoft, and SpindriftThis event is organized by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and our three Riverkeepers: Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper; Brent Walls, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper; and Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper. More information and registration details can be found: www.prknetwork.org/paddle-potomac-2016

Media Contact: Nathan Ackerman, nathan@prknetwork.org, 202-669-2323

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Potomac Riverkeeper Network Honors Congressman Gerry Connolly and Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell with "Protector of the Potomac" Award

Congressman Gerry Connolly's press statement:

(Pictured from left to right: Stella Koch, Congressman Gerry Connolly and Riverkeeper Network President Jeff Kelble)

(Pictured from left to right: Stella Koch, Congressman Gerry Connolly and Riverkeeper Network President Jeff Kelble)

On Friday May 13th, Potomac Riverkeeper Network awarded its prestigious Protector of the Potomac Award to two elected officials who have led efforts to protect and restore the Potomac River at their annual 2016 Gala in Alexandria, VA.

“United States Congressman Gerry Connolly and Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell will share our 2016 award for the exceptional role they have played in safeguarding their constituents and our waterways from the devastating impacts of coal ash waste” said Jeff Kelble, President, Potomac Riverkeeper Network.

U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly stepped up years ago as a champion of improving the federal rules which govern the closure of these storage pits. “Even before Possum Point began its closure plans Congressman Connolly stood out among his peers in demanding greater safeguards for the public.  He continues to be a leader in addressing the toxic legacy of coal ash today, and it is our honor to present to him our Protector of the Potomac Award,” said Dean Naujoks, the Potomac Riverkeeper.

“Thank you to the Potomac Riverkeeper Network for this recognition and bringing attention to the serious danger that coal ash poses to our communities, our waterways, and public health,” said Rep. Connolly. “What we are witnessing at Possum Point, and coal ash impoundments across the country, is one of the most significant environmental threats to Northern Virginia and demands all our attention.”

Virginia Senator Scott Surovell, representing the Commonwealth’s 36th District, has also been a force in the fight against coal ash.  From defending the right of his constituents living near Possum Point to a clean river and safe drinking water, to holding the state accountable for a full cleanup of Possum Point’s coal ash, Senator Surovell has worked tirelessly to protect the environment. “Senator Surovell has been an incredibly valuable partner to the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks in particular. We’re grateful to have him as an ally” said Mr. Naujoks. 

Town of Dumfries Calls for EPA Criminal Investigation into Dominion 27.5 Million Gallon Coal Ash Wastewater Dump Into Quantico Creek

For Immediate Release, March 10, 2016 

Contact: Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper 336-809-6041

DEQ Director Denied Contaminated Water from Ash Ponds Was Dumped to State Waters

Washington DC — The Town of Dumfries council voted unanimously to request an EPA criminal investigation into the relationship between Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Dominion Virginia Power. The 6-0 vote follows the Town’s decision last week to file a formal complaint with EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), prompted by the recent discovery of a 27.5 million gallons discharge of untreated coal ash water into Quantico Creek. Councilman William Murphy moved that the Town, on behalf of Council, make a formal request to the EPA, stating “nothing will change my mind that an EPA investigation into the matter is needed.” The letter was sent yesterday to Agent Nicole Bein, EPA Criminal Investigations Division in Washington, DC.

Dominion Virginia Power recently admitted the company dumped 33.7 million gallons of untreated coal ash waste water from its Possum Point Power Station in May 2015 into Quantico Creek, which flows into the Potomac River. Dominion Power then met privately with Virginia DEQ on February 3rd and revised its number to 27.5 million gallons, more contaminated coal ash water than was spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy in its catastrophic 2014 coal ash spill. Dominion didn't publicly acknowledge it dumped untreated coal ash water until after the company received approval of its permit modification from Virginia DEQ and the State Water Control Board on January 14th 2016.

In a February Inside Nova article, Dominion acknowledged for the first time that it dumped 33.7 million gallons of untreated coal ash wastewater from Possum Point’s second largest coal ash waste pond into Quantico Creek. While Dominion claims that draining the waste pond complied with its Virginia discharge permit, the fact remains that the company dumped over half of the 52 million gallon waste pond into Virginia waters without any treatment to remove arsenic, lead, cadmium, selenium and other toxic metals typically found in coal ash waste. And the public never had an opportunity to raise concerns during the permit review period, because Dominion did not acknowledge the dumping until after its permit was approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Virginia DEQ Regional Director, Thomas Faha from the DEQ Northern Regional Office reported that the agency was aware Dominion had discharged water from pond E in May 2015 when he spoke at the February meeting of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Faha’s statements directly contradict previous written statements made by DEQ Director David Paylor that “no water was discharged” from Dominion’s coal ash ponds.

“We applaud the Town of Dumfries for its leadership to address coal ash contamination in the Dumfries community” said Potomac Riverkeeper, Dean Naujoks.” We have a right to know why Director Paylor intentionally misled the public or whether he was misled by his staff or Dominion. Director Paylor, DEQ and Dominion’s stories don’t add up, only raising more suspicion about what happened, and who knew what when.”




Potomac Riverkeeper & Upper Potomac Riverkeeper join Waterkeepers Chesapeake & 5 Riverkeepers in Suit Against EPA

Contact: Mitchelle Stephenson, 410-353-4706, Mitchelle@WaterkeepersChesapeake.org PDF Copy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Waterkeepers Chesapeake and seven Riverkeeper organizations in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia, have filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EPA Administrator Regina McCarthy in a legal matter involving the delisting of 53 river segments in 17 Maryland counties and Baltimore City.

At issue is whether the Environmental Protection Agency, under provisions of the Clean Water Act, must assess water quality upriver in the 53 delisted river segments.

“Pollution doesn’t just originate in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Elizabeth Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “We have to look at all of the smaller creeks and streams that are suffering impaired water quality throughout the watershed.”

According to the suit, the delisted river segments suffer degraded conditions not limited to: algae blooms, sediment plumes, excess nutrients, low oxygen and fish die-offs.

"This case is not just about the EPA trying to shortcut what is required by the Clean Water Act,” said David Flores, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper. “It is also about the agency subverting the public's right to participate in the cleanup of our neighborhood streams and rivers."

This lawsuit challenges a regulatory action by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and EPA that followed the approval of the Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load, a regulatory term under the Clean Water Act). The legal action does not seek to overturn or undermine the Bay TMDL, recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

"Our rivers are more polluted than the main stem of the Bay. As a result, we need a stricter pollution diet,” said Jeff Horstman, Midshore Riverkeeper. “We have very concentrated areas of agricultural pollution requiring specific clean up actions. By circumventing their duty and simply applying the Bay TMDL to our rivers, the EPA and MDE hamper our ability to clean our rivers."

Earthjustice is filing the lawsuit on behalf of Waterkeepers Chesapeake and member organizations, which include Blue Water Baltimore (Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper), Chester River Association (Chester Riverkeeper), Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (Midshore Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper), and Potomac Riverkeeper Network (Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper). 

Map delisted waters


Statement from Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Southern Environmental Law Center on settlements

Charlottesville, VA—The recent settlements of coal-ash wastewater appeals at Possum Point and Bremo Bluff emphasize flaws in the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s permitting process.

On Tuesday, Prince William County announced it had settled its appeal of the discharge permit granted to Dominion Virginia Power for the draining of coal-ash wastewater from ponds at Possum Point. Today, the James River Association, represented by SELC, announced a settlement for the ponds at Bremo Bluff. The utility readily agreed in both cases it can treat coal-ash wastewater to a far higher standard than the DEQ permit required.

SELC also represents the Potomac Riverkeeper Network. The riverkeeper is moving forward with its legal challenge at Possum Point, to ensure even stronger protections for the waterway.

“DEQ has failed the communities it is required to protect.  It has failed to write permits that protect the James and Potomac rivers,” said Dean Naujoks, the Potomac Riverkeeper. “At the very least, the multiple appeals from environmentalists, and state and local governments, forced Dominion to come to the table. That by itself speaks volumes about the DEQ lax permit.”

The coal-ash ponds at Possum Point are on the banks of Quantico Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River. The creek and river are critical habitats for striped and largemouth bass, and blue and channel catfish. Endangered Atlantic sturgeon have also been detected in the creek.

“DEQ’s weak permits compel us to fight for a strong, enforceable limits that require Dominion to treat its coal ash waste with the best available technology,” SELC senior attorney Greg Buppert said. “We cannot only rely on Dominion to police itself at Possum Point. That means seeking a court order for the Potomac River to require the removal of enough arsenic and toxic metals to protect the river ecology and public health.”

Coal-ash wastewater contains arsenic, chromium, lead, and cadmium, all toxic to river life and human health. The Potomac Riverkeeper is still trying to assess the effects of a 30-million gallon discharge of untreated water into Quantico Creek over the summer. Dominion emptied most of the water in a coal-ash pond without public notice or, apparently, even notice to DEQ.

Critically, the settlement agreements announced yesterday and today only address treatment of polluted water on top of the coal ash. The agreements say nothing about management of the underlying coal ash itself. Dominion’s own records show the coal-ash pits at Possum Point have been leaking toxins into the groundwater and public waterways for more than 30 years.

Even with these agreements, Dominion is still planning to leave the coal ash in pits along the banks of the Potomac River, as well as its coal ash sites throughout Virginia — even as utilities in North and South Carolina commit to removing coal ash to safer dry, lined landfills away from waterways.



Groups Urge Court to Reverse Approval of Cove Point LNG Export Facility

For immediate release - PDF HERE
November 23, 2015

Contact: Betsy Nicholas, betsy@waterkeeperschesapeake.org, 202-423-0504
Robin Broder, robin@waterkeeperschesapeake.org, 703-786-8172

Federal regulator approved construction of massive $3.8 billion liquefied natural gas export facility on the Chesapeake Bay without considering all environmental and safety impacts

(Washington, DC)  Several groups have filed arguments against the continued construction of the Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility on the Chesapeake Bay at Lusby, Maryland. In September 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authorized the controversial LNG export facility despite widespread criticism of FERC’s Environmental Assessment (EA) for Dominion Cove Point. Since that time, Dominion has been constructing the massive $3.8 billion facility on the Chesapeake Bay. Groups and residents across the Bay region say that FERC’s decision fails to address the LNG export facility’s role in speeding fracking across the region, polluting the Bay, worsening the climate crisis, and threatening the health and safety of nearby residents in Calvert County. 

On Friday, November 20, 2015, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Potomac Riverkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, and several local groups represented by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center filed an amicus brief in support of petitioners EarthReports, Inc., et al.’s challenge [link to challenge] to FERC’s decision to license Dominion’s LNG export facility. They argue that FERC’s EA is impermissibly narrow in geographic scope and ignores significant project-related environmental impacts.

“We are happy to finally to get our day in court despite the fact that the construction of the LNG export facility has continued unabated. For far too long, FERC and our public officials have dismissed the health and safety of the residents of Calvert County and people throughout the Chesapeake region,” said Betsy Nicholas of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Pollution impacts to the Bay, the Patuxent River and upstream rivers, streams and drinking water sources have been ignored.”

FERC was required to determine the environmental consequences of the LNG export facility in its EA, including the impacts of induced natural gas production for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Instead, FERC concluded it was ‘not feasible to more specifically evaluate localized environmental impacts’ from increased drilling, even though Dominion knew its customers will source the fracked gas from the mid-Atlantic region and knew that new compressor and pipeline capacity will be built. FERC’s conclusion ran contrary to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendation that FERC consider the gas production stimulus effect of the export facility in its licensing decision.

The groups are urging the Court to find that FERC’s review of the project’s environmental impacts suffers from fatal flaws, and that the EA should be vacated and remanded to FERC to be replaced with either a more complete EA or a full Environmental Impact Statement.

"Exporting shale gas from Cove Point will only lead to more fracking in states like Pennsylvania," said Ryan Talbott, executive director of the Allegheny Defense Project. "That means more roads, well pads, waste water impoundments, compressor stations and pipelines fragmenting Pennsylvania's forests and public lands. Pennsylvania's wild forests should not be turned into industrial frackscapes so the gas industry can make more profits exporting shale gas to Asia."

"Proposed export facilities have a great impact on areas that are distant from the project itself. Right now hundreds of miles of pipelines are being built and many more proposed through people's farms and yards, and our parks and streams in the Susquehanna Watershed...all on the speculation of exporting gas from Cove Point,” said Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Michael Helfrich. “Do they not factor into the equation of what is "Public Good"?  People are losing their rights, their environment is being degraded, and we are told that we don't count!  All so that gas can go to foreign countries. This is not the America I knew. This is making us a third-world resource country."

"Building a significant shale gas exporting operation at Cove Point will inevitably incentivize further fracking in the Marcellus shale region, and further construction of natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure required for the transportation of gas from the Marcellus shale fields to Cove Point," said Joseph O. Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council. "FERC must do a better job of considering the harm all this development will do to the environment and the citizens of Pennsylvania."

Groups filing the amicus brief in support of petitioners EarthReports, Inc., et al.’s challenge to FERC’s decision to license Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export facility include: Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Potomac Riverkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Clean Air Council, Allegheny Defense Project, Wild Virginia, Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, and Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community.

 

 

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Files Clean Water Act Complaint Against Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District

On August 1, 2015, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, a branch of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, filed a Clean Water Act (CWA) complaint against the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District (Sewer District) in the Federal District court of Martinsburg, WV, for repeated violations of the water pollution control permit at the Marlowe Towne Center Waste Water Treatment Facility. The CWA complaint cites 57 discharge violations of pollutants, including fecal coliform, zinc and sediment. The Marlowe Towne Center was initially identified as a facility of interest in Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s 2014 Compliance Sweep conducted in the Upper Potomac, which reviewed 291 Clean Water Act permits and found that 38 out of the 291 facilities had committed severe violations of State and Federal water quality standards, resulting in discharges of pollutants in amounts that violate federal law and harm the environment.

Potomac Riverkeeper Calls on EPA to Investigate Dominion’s Handling of Coal Ash Waste at Possum Point Power Plant

Washington DC:  June 26th, 2015—Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) is calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate actions taken by Dominion in recent weeks that my increase environmental and public health risks posed by the storage of toxic coal ash near Quantico, Virginia on the Potomac River. PRKN’s actions follow on the heels of actions taken by Virginia lawmakers last week, urging the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to ramp up its response to pollution from Dominion’s Possum Point Power Plant coal ash ponds, and offer drinking water testing to nearby residents.

In a recent flyover, PRKN discovered that Dominion completely drained all the waste water from a 240 million gallon coal ash waste pond at Possum Point. Dominion claims it drained approximately 52 million gallons of toxic coal ash water out of one of its coal ash ponds. Dominion now appears to be moving coal ash from the drained pond to another waste pond on the site. All the activity shows that Dominion is likely advancing its closure plan and draining its waste ponds at Possum Point without the required approval of DEQ. Dominion has stated it intends to cap all five waste ponds and discharge toxic coal ash water from its ponds into Quantico Creek. 

Follow PRKN's work on Possum Point

Maryland Court Rules in Favor of Local Riverkeepers and Rejects Weak Montgomery County Stormwater Permit

On April 2, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled against the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) and sent the flawed stormwater permit for Montgomery County back to the state’s environmental regulators, citing a laundry list of legal and factual shortcomings that violated state and federal law. The court’s April 2 order upholds a 2013 lower court ruling that agreed with Potomac, Anacostia and Patuxent Riverkeepers and other environmental petitioners, finding that the 2010 permit failed to set clear benchmarks for reducing urban stormwater pollution and failed to provide meaningful public participation as the permit was developed. Instead of revising the permit, MDE appealed the court’s ruling, leading to the April 2 decision. The environmental petitioners include Friends of the Earth and Waterkeeper Alliance, who are both represented by Earthjustice in this case. 

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Conducts Pollution Permit Compliance Sweep and Finds Severe Violations

In March, 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper Network's Upper Potomac Riverkeeper completed a pollution permit compliance sweep in the Upper Potomac watershed, reviewing 291 Clean Water Act permits that allow industrial facilities to discharge into nearby waterways. Our sweep found that 38 out of 291 facilities had committed severe violations of State and Federal water quality standards, resulting in discharges of sewage bacteria, heavy metals such as arsenic and lead, and chlorine, ammonia and other toxic substances in amounts that violate federal law and harm the environment. Upper Potomac Riverkeeper’s findings are based on a review of the facility’s own monthly monitoring reports that are submitted to the State and EPA.

New Riverkeepers and staff join to form Potomac Riverkeeper Network

On March 4th, 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc. officially changed its name to Potomac Riverkeeper Network. This change reflects the formation of three individual Riverkeeper branches under one umbrella organization, centralized in Washington, DC. A member organization of Waterkeeper Alliance, Potomac Riverkeeper Network is home to Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls, Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf, and Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. In addition to new hires Frondorf and Naujoks, Phillip Musegaas joins staff as the new Legal Director to lead the organization in its legal advocacy initiatives.

EPA Coal Ash Regulations

To comply with a court-ordered deadline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today has issued its first-ever national rule on the disposal of coal ash. This toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants, which contains arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury and other known toxins and heavy metals, is the second-largest waste stream in the UnitedStates. But the vast majority of it is improperly stored in unlined and uncovered coal ash lagoons, often adjacent to our nation’s rivers and streams. 

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations- Dismissal of Appeal in Alt v. EPA

In light of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to withdraw its appeal of the West Virginia district court decision in the case of Alt v. EPA, Environmental Intervenors, Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc., Food & Water Watch, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Center for Food Safety, have today asked the court to dismiss their appeal.

VA NATIONAL POLLUTANT DISCHARGE ELIMINATION SYSTEM

The Environmental Integrity Project, the Assateague Coastal Trust, Virginia EasternShorekeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Waterkeepers Chesapeake (“Petitioners”) respectfully petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate formal proceedings pursuant to section 1342(c)(3) of the Clean Water Act to withdraw its approval of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s authorized National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program and assume administration and enforcement thereof. Petitioners make this request based on the failure of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to comply with EPA’s and the Clean Water Act’s requirements for the implementation and administration of an adequate NPDES program for concentrated
animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Shenandoah Riverkeeper to Sue EPA for Failure to Address Algae in Shenandoah

Public outcry arose last week over a water ban in Toledo, Ohio due to toxic algae blooms. But the threat from nuisance or toxic algae is not confined to the Midwest. Shenandoah Riverkeeper has worked for four years to push the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to officially recognize severe annual algae blooms in the Shenandoah River and to begin implementing plans to eliminate them, but has found that it must now resort to legal action.