Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Coal Ash Water Permit Public Comment Session

Full Room at 12/8/15 DEQ Public Comment Meeting on Dominion Coal Ash
Water Discharge Permit
Tonight, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hosted their official public comment hearing in Woodbridge.  Over 100 people turned out.

The hearing revolves around Dominion Resources application for a permit to discharge 172 million gallons of water used to store coal ash into Quantico Creek and the Potomac River.

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and I both provided comments.  Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi spoke and communicated that the Prince William County Board of Supervisors passed a unanimous resolution asking for extension of the public comment period.  We also heard from the Mayors of Dumfries and Quantico.  The Mayor of Quantico likewise asked for more time.

DEQ heard from groups all around the Commonwealth who expressed concern that the ecological impacts have not been properly considered.  Speakers expressed concerns about effects on small mouth bass, trout, catfish and other game fish.  Other groups expressed concerns about a "toe drain" at the foot of an impoundment for the large coal ash pond that has been leaking heavy metals into the creek. 

The biggest theme was that commenters were concerned about public awareness and wanted a longer period of time to provide comments.  Unfortunately, DEQ has already rejected the request I submitted for more time along with Senator David Marsden and Delegate David Bulova.

Senator-Elect Scott Surovell Giving
Public Comment at DEQ Woodbridge HQ
(Picture By Brad Caricofe)
I made three requests to DEQ.  First, I asked that the standards they adopt focus on no net degradation to Quantico Creek as opposed to allowing pollution to occur so long as metals concentrations did not exceed state standards.  Quantico Creek already has pollution problems and the water that goes into the creek should be drinkable - not polluted but diluted.

Second, I asked DEQ avoid making any final determinations regarding the currently unpermitted toe drain on the coal ash pond impoundment until DEQ has a better idea of how that drain functions.  Right now, there is little understanding of how it flows, when it flows, what comes out when it flows.  We need more data.

Third, I asked that the public comment period be extended due to the apparent lack of public awareness.  While DEQ has fully complied with state law notice requirements, few in the community are aware of the pending application. 

I also advised DEQ that I intend to file legislation modeled on North Carolina law which would require all investor-owned utilities to store coal ash in modern landfills.  This would effectively require the removal of all coal ash from Possum Point.  I asked DEQ to consider the pendency of legislation in connection with their decisions.

The public is still able to make public comment until December 14, 2015 at midnight.  You can make your public comment by clicking the link below and I will forward all comments to DEQ.

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