Dominion Fails to Provide Critical Monitoring Data for Possum Point Residents

Washington, DC – March 6 – Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) today assailed the report posted Friday, March 2 by Dominion Energy about the groundwater contamination at its Possum Point Power Station in Dumfries , VA.  “Dominion’s report proves extensive ground water pollution has been detected at all of its monitoring wells and proves contamination is leaking out of Pond D toward the Potomac River and Quantico Creek, “said Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. “Perhaps even more concerning is that Dominion appears to have omitted ground water monitoring data from monitoring wells adjacent to private residential drinking wells. Dominion already acknowledged contamination of private drinking wells when the company agreed to run municipal water lines to nearby residents of Possum Point. We want to know if Dominion violated state or federal laws by withholding this critical reporting information.”

An analysis conducted for Potomac Riverkeeper Network already verifies a very serious pollution problem and public health issue linked to Dominion’s toxic coal ash ponds at Possum Point.  It is critically important for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Public Health and the General Assembly to have all available data to determine if corrective action is warranted to protect public health, the environment and people’s property values.  More importantly, reporting requirements under the federal CCR coal ash rules were developed so communities living around coal ash ponds have access to data to know if contaminated ground water under coal ash ponds are jeopardizing their quality life and threatening public health

The Southern Environmental Law Center, PRKN’s partner in the fight to clean up Dominion’s coal ash ponds, has made several preliminary conclusions about the recent Dominion report:

  • Across all of its wells at the Possum Point facility, Dominion found high levels of chemicals like boron and chlorides, which are the “leading indicators” (according to the EPA) of whether coal ash pollutants are escaping off-site. In other words, the high levels of these chemicals indicate contaminated groundwater is flowing out of Pond D.
  • Consistent with these “leading indicators,” and the hydrology of the site, contaminated groundwater appears to be flowing into Quantico Creek and the Potomac River. For example, Dominion’s so-called “sentinel wells,” two of which are located between the pond and the Potomac River, reveal elevated levels of arsenic, beryllium, lithium, and radium.
  • Five of Dominion’s wells appear to have elevated radium concentrations—a radioactive element more commonly associated with nuclear waste. In fact, one well actually exceeded the applicable standard.  This troubling development appears to be part of a larger coal ash problem, with high levels of this radioactive pollutant having been found at Dominion’s other sites, Bremo, Chesterfield, and Chesapeake, as well as more than 10 Duke Energy coal ash sites in North Carolina.
  • Dominion’s monitoring wells are also showing elevated levels of pollutants such as arsenic, beryllium, cobalt, and lithium.

According to Naujoks, it now appears that Dominion’s report failed to include groundwater data for their monitoring wells nearest residential properties on Possum Point Road, located across the “beaver pond” from Pond E. Data for Dominion’s “sentinel monitoring wells” SD-1603 and SD-1604 show contamination moving toward Quantico Creek and the Potomac River, but it is unclear why critical monitoring data adjacent to private property is not available. Said Naujoks, “We are deeply troubled, and we demand that Dominion tell the public why Dominion did not include this information when state and federal rules were designed to provide the public right to know about impacts toxic coal ash is having on surrounding communities.” In 2016, Senator Scott Surovell demanded Dominion re-tap ground water monitoring wells (originally required under Dominion’s NPDES Permit) adjacent to residential properties on Possum Point Road when it was revealed no monitoring data was available. Dominion claimed the well heads were crushed years ago but reluctantly agreed to tap the crushed wells which are located approximately 700 feet from a residential drinking well on Possum Point Road.

The first monitoring report from the newly tapped wells showed dangerous contaminates leaking from Dominion’s coal ash ponds toward residential properties, prompting Dominion to agree to run water lines to private residences.  Samples collected from drinking wells along Possum Point Road 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.

Some Possum Point residents believe millions of tons of toxic coal ash Dominion stored next to their property in unlined pits for the last few decades have contaminated their drinking wells.  According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, “living next to a coal ash disposal site can increase your risk of cancer or other diseases. If you live near an unlined wet ash pond (surface impoundment) and you get your drinking water from a well, you may have as much as 1 in 50 chances of getting cancer from drinking arsenic-contaminated water.”

Potomac Riverkeeper Network believes contaminants found in adjacent monitoring wells and in private drinking wells on Possum Point Road provide clear evidence of coal ash contamination and that contaminated ground water is leaving Dominion’s site.  Dominion has repeatedly denied any connection between contaminated ground water the company identified under its coal ash ponds and dangerous heavy metals identified in private drinking wells and in Quantico Creek.  Some residents living near Dominion’s coal ash ponds still have not been provided free drinking water lines and continue to rely on contaminated well water.

Dominion has also failed to explain why ground water contamination is even occurring on site considering coal ash from Ponds A, B, C and E was removed over a year ago. The company has maintained ash Pond D does not leak because of a partial clay liner the company intends to use to permanently cap-in-place over 4 million tons of coal ash. Potomac Riverkeeper Network has maintained Pond D does not have a modern liner system and that cap-in-place will allow toxic coal ash to continuously leak into rivers, streams and threaten drinking water supplies. Contamination found in those monitoring wells adjacent to residential properties provides additional evidence Pond D is leaking and that contamination is not only moving toward the river but also toward residential drinking wells and onto private property. Information that PRKN believes should have been included in their public reporting.

“Dominion has almost zero credibility, and its continued denial that their own data shows toxic contaminants are moving into the river and nearby groundwater comes as no surprise.  In our view, Dominion is violating state and federal law by allowing cancer causing metals found in coal ash to leak into our rivers, streams and drinking water supplies.  The groundwater monitoring data required by federal coal regulations for utility companies like Dominion are now showing a nation-wide problem with coal ash,“ said President Jeff Kelble. “We are urging Governor Northam and the Virginia General Assembly to take action on coal ash! Cap-in-place will not work nor will it address coal ash pollution that is already endangering the drinking wells of nearby residents at Possum Point and imperiling groundwater in a far larger area than Dominion is willing to admit,” concluded Kelble.

The Dominion report coincides with the consideration by the Virginia House of Delegates of SB 807 which directs the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality to suspend, delay, or defer the issuance of any permit to provide for the closure of any coal combustion residuals (CCR) unit until July 1, 2019. The measure also requires the owner or operator of any CCR surface impoundment that is located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to determine the overall feasibility of recycling coal ash, including its costs and the potential market demand and to report on the results of the RFP by December 1, 2018.

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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