Dominion Virginia Power will close all its coal ash ponds at power plants in Virginia to comply with standards established by state and federal regulations.
The company announced on April 17 that it would close ponds at four locations: Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County, Chesapeake Energy Center in Chesapeake, Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield County, and Possum Point Power Station in Prince William County. The Bremo, Chesapeake, and Possom Point power plants no longer use coal as a fuel.
The measure follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) December 2014–finalized rule to regulate coal combustion residuals from coal plants. While that rule determines that fly ash is a non-hazardous material, it requires the closure of surface impoundments and landfills that fail to meet engineering and structural standards.
“The EPA rules were just finalized, and we have been working on plans based on the proposed rule in order to be prepared,” said Pamela Faggert, Dominion’s chief environmental officer and vice president of Corporate Compliance. “We are working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality [DEQ] and other state agencies to develop closure plans that are in compliance with the new rules.”
The company said that the ponds to be closed will be drained and covered by a “rugged, impermeable liner, then topped with 24 inches of soil.” The DEQ will determine specifics of the closure plan.
Virginia has stepped up enforcement of environmental issues stemming from coal ash spill. Earlier this month, the state proposed a $2.5 million settlement against Duke Energy Carolinas as a result of the 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River.
The spill occurred February 2, 2014, when a stormwater pipe beneath a coal ash storage pond collapsed at a Duke facility in Eden, N.C., sending up to 39,000 tons of coal ash and about 25 million gallons of ash impoundment water into the Dan River. According to the Virginia DEQ, the material moved downriver and settled out in varying amounts for about 80 miles, reaching the Kerr Reservoir in Virginia.
In related news, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 15 approved a bill introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va) to require states to set up permit systems for coal ash sites. The bill also removes some requirements from the EPA rule, like requiring public disclosure of the status of disposal ponds.
—Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)