I have some progress to report in our fight against legacy coal ash in Virginia.
You probably recall that the Virginia legislature earlier last year required Dominion to issue a request for proposal to analyze the feasibility of recycling its near 28 million tons of coal ash stored throughout the Chesapeake Watershed in ponds along some of our most important rivers. The ponds – all of them — are leaching toxic heavy metals into rivers, streams, groundwater, and drinking water sources. Yesterday, the legislature’s joint subcommittee held a hearing to receive Dominion’s report and to take testimony from other interested individuals and groups.
We learned from Dominion’s update that there is much interest in recycling from the private sector. Twelve bids were submitted to offer services in cleaning up, through excavating and recycling, at five of the 11 coal ash ponds operated by Dominion.
We also learned that technology is improving to produce better, stronger, and longer lasting concrete from coal ash residue. Last year, we obtained an expert report that demonstrated the effectiveness of recycling and its feasibility, and it’s comforting to discover that there is much more support than we could have hoped.
At the hearing, we and our partners at Southern Environmental Law Center repeated and emphasized our position that “cap-in-place”, Dominion’s preferred approach, is neither sustainable nor sensible. We noted that groundwater contamination comes from the bottom of the ponds, so that simply covering them does nothing to solve the problem.
Finally, media coverage of the hearing also demonstrated that the critical need to find a solution to this long-term problem is more widely understood because of the recent flooding from coal ash ponds in North Carolina – heavy rains from Hurricane Florence overwhelmed dams and berms – and that waiting to fix the problem is simply waiting for a disaster from the next hurricane or other major weather event.