Safe Disposal of Coal Ash at Possum Point Campaign

POSSUM POINT COAL ASH PONDSPRKN 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

VA Legislature Acts on Coal Ash – A Little

Yesterday, the Virginia Commerce & Labor Committee dealt with the six coal ash bills referred to it. Here is the bill that was passed out of the Committee. It does 3 things: Imposes a moratorium on DEQ issuing any coal ash solid waste permits at Dominion sites until July 1, 2019. Exception – allows DEQ to permit […]


Important Coal Ash Legislation Pending in Virginia Senate This Week– We Need Your Help!

First, thank you for your help this past week — your calls and personal emails really made a difference! Virginia Senators said the response on coal ash was overwhelming because you picked up the phone to demand that Dominion clean up its toxic coal ash! But our work isn’t done! Lawmakers are not saying why they […]


Time to Act! 28 Million Tons of Toxic Coal Ash Has To GO!

We really need your help.  Starting the week of January 29, the Virginia Senate will begin consideration, in various committees, of five bills introduced by Senator Scott Surovell, all dealing with coal ash and its remediation. Passage of these bills is absolutely critical to ensure that the pollution and public health threat posed by Dominion’s […]


Potomac Riverkeeper Issues Rebuttal to Dominion Coal Ash Use Assessment

Rebuttal Highlights Faulty Logic, Misleading Statements, and Incomplete Information in Dominion Report Washington, DC – January 18 – Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) and Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) today released their response and rebuttal to the coal ash assessment Dominion Energy provided to the Virginia General Assembly last December; the rebuttal demonstrates a wide variety of […]


Our Report Shows Coal Ash Can Be Recycled to Beneficial Uses

Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Southern Environmental Law Center released a new report that finds recycling coal ash left at Possum Point and three other Dominion Energy coal power plant sites is commercially viable and would eliminate the risk of future environmental contamination posed by leaving the ash in capped, unlined ash ponds onsite. Recycled coal ash […]


New Report Urges Recycling, Not Burying of Coal Ash

Protects Virginia Rivers and Drinking Water from Contamination and Provides Cost-effective product for Highway and Bridge Construction Washington, DC – November 30 – An independent report issued today by Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Southern Environmental Law Center finds that recycling coal ash left at Possum Point and three other Dominion Energy coal power plant sites is […]


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 […]