If you recall last fall Dominion Power agreed to install additional groundwater monitoring wells and conduct bi-weekly monitoring of the new wells. This brought the total number of monitoring wells to 24 and provided enhanced monitoring and protection for Quantico Creek, the upstream neighbors and the Potomac River from the dewatering of the coal ash ponds at Dominion’s Possum Point Power Station. The recent sampling of those wells showed elevated levels of boron, chloride, cobalt, nickel, sulfate and zinc upstream of the ponds. Though, Dominion maintains that there is no evidence that its ash ponds have contaminated drinking water wells near the site, they are offering neighbors a and says the new results seem inconsistent with what they assumed about the geology and groundwater. Groundwater often surprises you.
Several rounds of sampling from the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Household Water Quality Program, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and a contractor hired by Prince William County have found varying levels of metals, such as hexavalent chromium, lead, antimony and other constituents that can be associated with coal ash, but are also present naturally in the groundwater of Virginia as well as low pH levels that corrode plumbing, in drinking water wells along Possum Point Road.
I reviewed test results from both our Household Water Quality Program and the Virginia Department of Health. The VDH tested the water for thirteen contaminants that are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, total chromium, mercury, lead, antimony, selenium, thallium, radium). Though traces of various substances were found, none of the levels of contaminants were above the MCLs or SMCLs of the Safe Drinking Water Act so would be acceptable for public drinking water supplies. The VDH also tested for substances not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. These contaminants were: boron, calcium, cobalt, lithium, magnesium, sodium, nickel, vanadium, zinc, alkalinity, bicarbonate alkalinity, carbonate alkalinity, hexavalent chromium, molybdenum, strontium, thorium, radium-228 and vanadium. The chart below shows the summary of results of what they found (you can request the information under the FOIA).
If you recall, Dominion Power has been moving forward with a plan to “close in place” 3.7 million cubic yards of coal ash under the recently finalized U.S. EPA Coal Ash regulation. The plan for Possum Point is to consolidate all of the on-site coal ash into one impoundment. There is estimated to be 3.7 million cubic yards of coal ash. Dominion has collected more than 1 million cubic yards of ash from four smaller ponds, put them in a 120-acre pond that already contains 2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash that they have begun to dewater. Ultimately, the pond will be capped with an impermeable membrane to prevent future infiltration of rain. The groundwater results do not necessarily indicate contamination from the coal ash ponds, and Dominion Power will continue to press forward obtain their permit to close the site.
Closing the coal ash on site when properly done is probably the best solution. A safe closure requires ongoing monitoring and maintenance that is best accomplished at an operating and regulated plant rather than at a remote cap and leave it location. All physical barriers fail over time this is addressed by monitoring and maintaining the systems.