Why Won’t Dominion Disclose Groundwater Monitoring Data?

I’ve written previously about the report released Friday, March 2, by Dominion Energy confirming groundwater contamination at its coal burning facility in Possum Point, VA here.  The report proves extensive ground water pollution has been detected at all of its monitoring wells and also proves contamination is leaking out of Pond D toward the Potomac River and Quantico Creek.  But perhaps even more alarming 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.

When asked about this Dominion responded in a way that does not tell the whole story and is intentionally misleading:

“The report posted on March 2 only includes the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) wells around Pond D (only “active” pond at Possum). Therefore the data from the wells near Mr. West’s home (Pond E wells) are not included. The wells for Ponds A, B, C, and E are on a different schedule as “inactive” ponds. Annual reports for inactive ponds are not due for over a year.  However, we have continued to sample the nine wells between Pond E and the residents every two weeks since September 2016.  That data gets submitted to DEQ as the data comes back from the lab. With the submittal we will make today a total of 32 rounds of data from these nine wells have been collected and submitted to DEQ. The data in those wells have continued to show no results above human health criteria.

In fact, Dominion’s own monitoring data around Pond D shows exceedances for a variety of cancer causing metals.  The first monitoring report in 2016 from the newly tapped wells (less than 100 feet from a residential drinking well) showed dangerous contaminants leaking from Dominion’s coal ash ponds toward residential properties, prompting Dominion to agree to run water lines to people on Possum Point road.  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.  Not having access to the data presents an incomplete picture of what is happening with ground water at Possum Point.

Even though reports for groundwater testing around pond E are not due yet, lawmakers should urge Dominion to post those results on its website now. Dominion excavated pond E in 2015. Not surprisingly, we’ve seen at sites elsewhere that groundwater becomes significantly cleaner once the coal ash is removed from a leaking impoundment. The public needs to know if that same process is underway for pond E. If it’s not, the remaining ash at Possum Point in pond D is likely to blame. Dominion’s March 2 data shows that pond D continues to contaminate groundwater with coal ash pollutants and its monitoring wells show contamination.

Residents living near Possum Point coal ash ponds have repeatedly said they had no idea about the dangers of toxic coal ash right in their back yard.  The reporting requirements under the federal CCR coal ash rules were specifically developed (and fought for years) so communities living around coal ash ponds have access to data to know if contaminated ground water under coal ash ponds are potentially jeopardizing their quality life and/or threatening public health. Why should citizens have to hire a lawyer or file a FOIA request to get monitoring data that is publicly available in a DEQ data base?

It is also critically important for the General Assembly and Prince William County to have all available data to determine if corrective action is warranted to protect public health, the environment and people’s property values.

Dominion has assured lawmakers the Pond D partial clay liner is adequate to prevent ground water contamination but has failed to explain why ground water contamination continues to occur on site considering coal ash from Ponds A, B, C and E was removed well over a year ago.

Dominion’s response doesn’t tell the whole story about whether or not these wells show elevated levels of coal ash pollution. Residents living near Possum Point deserve the right to access this information the reality is we won’t know for another year unless lawmakers demand this information be publicly posted. That data is available and we demand to see it now.

Read the press release here.