Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Report on Coal Ash Hearing #2

Nate Benforado with SELC Addressing Committee
Spent the day today in Richmond for the second meeting of the Joint House/Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting on resolving Virginia's coal ash situation.

Dominion Briefing
Dominion was first to the podium.  They briefed the committee on a recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that reversed a Richmond federal judge who held that their Chesapeake Coal Ash landfill was violating the Clean Water Act.  The appellate court held that the trial judge was wrong and that although the landfill was leaking toxic metals, it was not leaking it in a way that violated the Act.

Next, Dominion talked about the status of their request for proposals on coal ash recycling.
  • 86 people from 51 firms attended Dominion's initial information session
  • 26 suppliers indicated interest in bidding
  • They held tours at four sites where 57 people from 23 firms attended
  • They received 115 questions and issued 12 clarifications for the bid process
  • They ultimately received 12 bids with 2,100 pages of information
  • They are currently asking questions of the bidders and then expect to have a report to the legislature by November 15, 2018
Dominion also noted that they are exploring have multiple solutions are multiple sites and not unitary solutions at each site.

Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC)
Next up, Nate Benforado, who is an attorney with the SELC spoke  He briefed the subcommittee on the state of coal ash ponds, Southeast Regional Progress, Cap in Place, and the Excavation with Reycling issues.

Chesterfield County Coal Ash Ponds & Dutch Gap Park
There are 28 millions total tons. From their perspective, all of the ponds are unlined.  Chesterfield is the biggest with 14.9 tons and all have documented pollution.  They future explained how Dominion used a former oxbow of the James River to store ash in the old river.  

Next, the explained the Chesapeake site and showed the coal ash peninsula constructed in the Elizabeth River from the 1950's until the 1980's - much of it below sea level.  They also noted that the site is leaking Arsenic into the Elizabeth River from all sides

Possum Point Coal Ash Ponds
They discussed Possum Point in the 36th District.  They explained how Ponds A-C near Quantico Creek were dug up and the ash moved into Pond D.  They also noted that Pond E has been moved into Pond D.

Bremo Bluffs has six million tons of coal ash on the bank of the James River in dammed up stream valleys.  They ponds are not lined.

Every coal ash pond in the Atlantic Coastal region is being excavated - except in Virginia.  South Carolina, North Carolina, George are all excavating about 110 million tons of coal ash.  

Next, they talked about Hurricane Florence.  They discussed the Sutton Plant in North Carolina where a dam failure caused the ash to be released when the river overflowed the protective barriers in the Cape Fear River.  They also discussed coal ash pond flooding that occurred at the H.F. Lee Plant during Hurricane Matthew.  

South Carolina is digging up every single coal ash pond.  Hurricane Florence was not a risk to them because many of their ponds were excavated before the flood waters hit.  

They also noted that Chesapeake and Chesterfield are at risk to river flooding and that Possum Point and Bremo Bluffs are vulnerable to dam failure.  They also noted that they ponds are emitting arsenic, hexavalent chromium, lead and radium on sunny days.

They also discussed the Chisam Creek site in York County which is a Super Fund site.  They also noted that this site was capped 30 years ago and that capping the site has not solved the problem there.

They noted that at other sites, excavation reduced groundwater heavy metal discharges by 90%.  They also explained the commercial success that South Carolina utilities have seen.  They also have noted that in South Carolina their costs have been 3x to 8x lower per ton than Dominion's prediction from my 2017 legislation.

They finally pointed out all of the positive economic benefits that can come from recycling solutions.  Increase property values, local tax revenue, more jobs, manufacturing jobs, and that it will improve the community reputation with the reputational effects from ongoing pollution.

SEFA Group
Hank Keiper with the SEFA Group spoke about his company's coal ash recycling efforts.  They have a process where they take coal ash, burn off the carbon and then sell it to concrete manufacturers.  They have three plants - two in South Carolina, one in Maryland, and three under construction in North Carolina.  They have recycled 20 million cubic yards so far

They pointed out that the ancient Romans used volcanic ash to make concrete and that coal ash has nearly identical properties.  They noted that the only nuclear power plant under construction in the United States right now is using coal ash and that nearly all half of concrete uses in Virginia could use coal ash.

They also noted that the bridge piers on the I-895 Pocahontas Parkway Bridge was made from coal ash.  VDOT required half of the powder to be coal ash.  Coal ash causes a reaction in concrete which encapsulates and hardens into concrete which locks in the heavy metals in a chemical matrix which prevents leaching.  

The recycling process is called beneficiation and they used a technology called Staged Turbulent Air Reactor or STAR to recycle the ash.  The process also creates heat that can be recycled to make energy.  There is also no waste stream from their product.  

They noted that different market pressures has reduced the usage of coal in America which has resulted in a shortage of coal ash.  To make up the difference, suppliers have been importing ash from outside of the U.S.

There are some challenges to recycling ash - if the ash was not desulfered it needs treatment.  They also need to get rid of water, make a consistent uniform product and remove other detrius (trash) from the ash.

They also provided an overview of their first recycling site was in Georgetown, SC.  

SEFA summarized their market studies in Virginia.  They think Central VA has a marked of about 600,000 tons per year.  If you extend it up to Philadelphia there could be a potential market for up to 1 million tons per year for Virginia fly ash.

Delegate Marshall noted that he used coal ash in his former concrete business.  He also noted that they amount of coal ash significantly exceeds the amount of coal ash that is needed for manufacturing and their solution is not a complete solution.

Kunigal Shivakumar and Wade Brown - North Carolina A&T
Next, Dr. Kunigal Shivakumr and Dr. Wade Brown gave a presentation on research they have been doing on coal ash beneficiation.  They discussed a composite material that they have created using coal ash.  Their objective was to develop products to be manufactured out of coal ash besides concrete.

They then presented various products they have manufactured from coal ash including wall boards, chair rails, moldings, floor boards, etc.  They pointed out that the cost per pound is one-third of the cost of PVC and about one-half the cost of HDPE.  

They are currently looking for a funding partner to sell their products.  Here is an article summarizing their research.

Public Comment
A Virginia concrete manufacturer spoke.  He said he used fly ash in his process and could get ash from three suppliers and that today that has dwindled.  He talked about how they wanted to use fly ash in a big project at Newport News Shipyard, but could not guaranty enough and had to use other products.

Two citizens from Poquoson in York County spoke about the situation as Chisam Creek.  They talked about berm failures at their site.  They also requested that the Chisam Creek site be also considered as part of any solution, and they urged prompt action especially in light of what hurricanes can do.  

Glen Besa with the Sierra Club spoke.  He also urged that the General Assembly also talk to scientists and not just lobbyists.  

Philip Musegaas spoke from the Potomac Riverkeeper Alliance.  He highlighted the new D.C. Circuit Appellate decision that invalidated a series of Obama-era EPA rules about coal ash because they were not protective enough of the environment. 

Next, Dean Naujoks spoke out about the Duke Energy situation which led to major coal ash legislation there.  He also reiterated that supply of coal ash is declining while the need for coal ash is rising.  

Patty Marrow spoke last.  Ms. Marrow lives on Possum Point and on property with contaminated groundwater wells.  

Next Steps
Dominion's report is due on November 15, 2018 and there will be a hearing after that.

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