Safe Disposal of Coal Ash at Possum Point Campaign

POSSUM POINT COAL ASH PONDSUPDATE: Coal Ash Disposal Assessment presented at State Water Commission Dec 4th meeting

PRKN is using litigation and grassroots political outreach to push for a full cleanup of Possum Point’s coal ash pollution, investigation of Dominion’s handling of coal ash, and the excavation and removal of all coal ash at the site to a lined landfill away from the Potomac River. Our goal is to make sure these toxic coal ash ponds are no longer a threat to Quantico Creek, the Potomac and public drinking water supplies.

Possum Point Power Plant

Dominion, one of Virginia’s largest energy companies, owns and operates the Possum Point Power Plant, located just south of Alexandria on a peninsula between Quantico Creek and the Potomac River. The plant burned coal from 1955 to 2003. Coal ash, the waste produced from burning coal, is disposed of at the site in five “ponds” that hold over a billion gallons of toxic coal ash and contaminated water. Although the plant switched to natural gas in 2003, the ponds are still being used to store millions of tons of this toxic slurry – all of which is located along the banks of Quantico Creek.

Coal ash contains a range of metals that are toxic at high levels, including lead, arsenic, chromium, selenium and vanadium, and is typically stored in unlined pits at coal plants, often built where wetlands once were, or constructed on hillsides with large earthen and rock berms to contain the ash and stormwater that combines to create coal ash “ponds.” Subsequently, this slurry can leach out of the ponds and pollute nearby groundwater and waterways. This can be expedited from severe rainstorm events. In 2014, Potomac Riverkeeper Network discovered that all five ponds at Possum Point were seeping directly into the Creek or leaching coal ash waste into local groundwater around the facility, resulting in contamination of the groundwater and illegal surface water discharges from the site.

coal ash ponds

Pond E before and after Dominion discharged 27.5M gallons of untreated coal ash wastewater in May 2015.

During a routine flyover in June 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper Network discovered Pond E was empty, prompting Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) to notify DEQ Director David Paylor that pond E may have been drained into Quantico Creek. On June 19, 2015 Director Paylor responded by email; “we know that water was moved between ponds but our best information is that no water was discharged to state waters.” On June 22, 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper filed a complaint to EPA Criminal Investigation Division describing potential discharging or dewatering waste water from Dominion’s coal ash pond E at Possum Point into an unnamed tributary (known as the Beaver Pond) of Quantico Creek.

In September 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, represented by SELC, filed a 60-day Notice of Intent (NOI) to sue Dominion for illegal discharges of toxic coal ash into Quantico Creek and ground water (read factsheet). After filing Notice of Intent, PRKN continued to monitor the facility for illegal discharges into Quantico Creek and to take water and sediment samples at the site perimeter to test for unsafe levels of heavy metals. PRKN joined state lawmakers in calling for testing of drinking water wells for nearby residents, to find out whether their drinking water has been affected by the coal ash leaks into groundwater.

What is a coal ash pond?

TIMELINE OF EVENTS (click on arrows for details)

November 2015: PRKN files comments on draft wastewater permit
December 2015: Over 100 people protest at DEQ's office & poll shows majority of Prince William County residents oppose Dominion's plan
January 2016: After VA State Water Quality Board approved wastewater permit, Dominion reveals it released 27.5 million gallons of untreated coal ash wastewater into tributary of Quantico Creek. PRKN files notice of appeal
February 2016: PRKN files appeal of wastewater permit
March 2016: WAMU 88.5 News breaks story on relationship between DEQ & Dominion
May 2016: Dominion releases coal ash wastewater & testing shows contaminated ground water and drink water wells
June 2016: State of Maryland drops its appeal of wastewater permit
September 2016: State court hears our appeal of wastewater permit
October 2016: Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks is arrested at civil disobedience protest at Governor's mansion
December 2016: Dominion announces it will hook up Possum Point homes to public water & it pauses releases of treated wastewater
January 2017: DEQ released draft solid waste permit for disposal of 4 million tons of toxic coal ash
February 2017: 80% of Prince William County residents oppose Dominion's plan to cap-in-place, hundreds demand action from County Board of Supervisors & bill mandating a full analysis of all disposal alternatives awaits the governor's signature
March 2017: Prince William County requested a delay in the solid waste permit & a study of alternatives. Nearly 500 comments sent to DEQ opposing Dominion's plan to bury toxic coal ash
April 2017: Major Victory! Bill requiring a moratorium on coal ash solid waster permits is signed by the governor!


Latest Updates

Major Victory on Coal Ash Pollution in Virginia!

We had a big victory on coal ash yesterday. Virginia Governor McAuliffe signed into law safeguards to protect public health and the environment that we’ve been fighting for years and put a freeze on all coal ash solid waste permits! Last year’s coal ash bill died quietly in committee. Dominion seemed poised to get the […]


Tell Virginia Legislators to Support SB1398 for Safe Disposal of Coal Ash

When our coal ash campaign began three years ago, neighbors of Dominion’s Possum Point plant didn’t know a toxic cocktail of arsenic and heavy metals was leaking into their wells. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) didn’t know Dominion was pumping 27.5 millions of gallons of untreated coal ash water into Quantico Creek — […]


PRKN Applauds Governor McAuliffe’s Proposed Moratorium on Coal Ash Solid Waste Permits

On Wednesday, March 22, 2017, Governor McAuliffe announced that he is restoring the common sense measures to Virginia Senate Bill 1398 (SB 1398) that require Dominion Power to fully assess risks to water quality and the environment posed by coal ash pollution. His proposed amendments re-instate a requirement for Dominion to complete an assessment of […]


Pressure Increases for Alternative to Burying Toxic Coal Ash at Possum Point

Our coal ash campaign at Possum Point really intensified over the last month. Working closely with reporters, we generated substantial media coverage, which put pressure on local officials to take a stand. We had several important deadlines within a short time — potentially the last two public meetings with the Prince William Board of Supervisors […]


Press Release: 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 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 […]


Stop Dominion’s Coal Ash from Poisoning Possum Point Wells!

A big thank you to those who made the effort to attend the public meeting February 16th on the toxic coal ash at Possum Point, Virginia. The turnout was HUGE and the families who’ve had their water poisoned were deeply moved by the outpouring of support. Over a hundred people delivered a very clear message […]


Statement on Dominion Decision 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 […]


Our Day in Court Over Lax Coal Ash Permit at Possum Point

On September 27th, Potomac Riverkeeper presented its case against the discharge permit issued to Dominion by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), allowing Dominion to drain its largest coal ash pit at Possum Point power plant into Quantico Creek and the Potomac River. Under the permit, Dominion is allowed to dump about 200 million gallons […]

fight toxic coal ash

The Fight Against Toxic Coal Ash Contamination Continues

A recent Post article about Maryland’s withdrawal of its challenge to Dominion’s Possum Point waste water permit gives the impression the fight over Dominion’s “cap-in-place” coal ash plan is over. For Brian West, who lives 705 feet from Dominion’s Possum Point coal ash ponds, the fight is just beginning. And our challenge continues. The same […]


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

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 […]