Dominion Virginia Power has announced plans to close four coal ash storage ponds currently in use in the state after the EPA recently finalized new regulations for coal ash disposal that it first announced back in December.
The ponds are in Chesterfield, Fluvanna and Prince William counties and in Chesapeake. They will be replaced by modern landfills equipped with liners, leachate collection systems, and groundwater monitoring to ensure that the coal ash isn’t seeping any harmful substances into the environment.
The conventional disposal method of using ponds wet the ash so particles aren’t floating in the air. But adding moisture facilitates release of heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury from the ash, to name just a few, which leaches into the surrounding ground and groundwater supply.
Dominion’s plans to retire its ponds involves drying out the coal ash and then covering it with an impermeable plastic liner. The liner will be topped with 2 feet of soil, which will then be covered with sod or grass.
This complies with EPA standards, but does it really render the coal ash harmless?
Common sense should supply that answer.
Most ponds themselves have no liners, and they contain coal ash, which can continue to soak up moisture from the surrounding land through the ponds’ unprotected sides and bottoms. That moisture will continue to serve as the conduit that enables toxic materials to leach out.
The only foolproof way to make the ponds harmless is to relocate the coal ash through lined containment. This is accomplished by dewatering the ash, re-depositing it on lined areas, and THEN capping the ponds as planned.
Fully encapsulating coal ash is the patented EnCAP-IT method.
Over the years, Dominion has greatly reduced coal use at its power stations, with only the Chesterfield location continuing to generate coal ash. That facility will get a new lined landfill. But the coal ash buried in the other three locations will continue to be problematic.