Dominion and Utilities Confirm that Coal Ash Contaminated Groundwater

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Washington, DC – March 1 – Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) says that recent disclosures made by utility companies confirm longstanding groundwater contamination at coal ash sites located across the US due to inadequate storage of coal ash in unlined, leaking waste ponds.   “Coal ash ponds do not have modern protective liners and as a result contaminate ground water with toxic metals which then leak into rivers, drinking water supplies and threaten public health.” said Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper.  “Federal coal ash rules are forcing utility companies like Duke Energy and Dominion Power to finally publish their ground water monitoring data and acknowledge coal ash ponds leak and have been contaminating ground water for decades.”

A report prepared in January 2018 for PRKN analyzed coal ash groundwater contamination at the Dominion Virginia Energy coal plant at Possum Point, VA, unequivocally demonstrated that contamination is present and longstanding – as far back as 1988.  Patty Marrow, a resident living near Dominion’s coal ash ponds, said, “For over 20 years we never knew about the dangers of toxic coal ash until we tested our drinking wells. A consultant we hired told us not to drink our water which has had a devastating impact on the value of our home, and helped explain many health issues our family has suffered.” Samples collected from Marrow’s drinking water and some of her neighbors’ wells have revealed hexavalent chromium, arsenic, cobalt, aluminum, barium, copper, magnesium, manganese, nickel, zinc, vanadium, boron and strontium—many of which are carcinogenic–all are found in coal ash.

Residents living on Possum Point Road have good reason to worry about contaminates found in their drinking wells. In 2015, North Carolina health officials tested 360 drinking wells near Duke Energy coal ash ponds and 330 exceeded standards for one or more contaminants which prompted NC State Health officials to issue drinking water advisories to area residents. That same year, Duke Energy pled guilty to nine criminal Clean Water Act violations, acknowledging Duke Energy coal ash ponds contaminated both surface and ground water.

In 2016, Dominion agreed to run municipal water lines to Possum Point residents after the company’s new monitoring wells revealed ground water contamination moving closer to residential drinking wells. Yet, the company has continued to maintain its coal ash ponds are not responsible for the contaminants found in residential drinking wells.

“At a time when Virginia lawmakers are considering how to best protect public health and Virginia water ways from the dangers of coal ash, this disclosure justifies the concerns we have been raising that capping-in-place 30 million tons of toxic ash will not work.” said Phillip Musegaas, PRKN’s Vice President of Programs and Litigation.

Utility companies must now publicly disclose ground water monitoring data as a result of a 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation which requires all U.S. electric generating utilities to analyze groundwater pollution at each of their operating coal ash storage locations by January 31, 2018 and publish the results online by March 2. Dominion Energy has yet to post the results of its analysis for Possum Point, or indeed any of the four sites in operates in Virginia.  These first-ever groundwater monitoring reports are sure to prove critically important to the safety of the nation’s drinking water.  The EPA and environmental groups have already confirmed over 200 cases of water contamination from leaking coal ash sites.

Earthjustice and other environmental organizations which have reviewed reports already posted online have noted that a majority of coal ash sites have groundwater contamination.  Out of the 14 power plants so far that posted test results and analyses, nine noted “statistically significant increases” of substances such as arsenic, antimony, molybdenum, lithium, boron, chlorides, pH and more in groundwater.  Three additional plants confirmed findings of preliminary contamination but have not completed testing and analysis. The data also reveal levels of arsenic and radium above drinking water standards in some groundwater wells demonstrating wide spread contamination at coal ash storage locations across the US.

As early as 2004, Dominion acknowledged contaminated groundwater discharging to the Quantico Creek (a tributary of the Potomac River) according to an assessment Dominions submitted to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; “The primary environmental receptor for groundwater associated with Ash Pond D and Ash Pond E is Quantico Creek, Groundwater flows south from the site toward Quantico Creek where it discharges into the creek.”

“Dominion has a long history of repeatedly denying that a problem even exists, and is likely delaying the public release of its monitoring data to weaken coal ash legislation that is currently moving through the Virginia General Assembly,“ said Naujoks.  “If Dominion’s analyses showed no groundwater contamination at its sites, they would have posted those results already.”

About Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization with three regional Waterkeeper branches: Potomac Riverkeeper, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and Shenandoah Riverkeeper. Our mission is to protect the public’s right to clean water in our rivers and streams. We stop pollution to promote safe drinking water, protect healthy habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment.

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