JRA and Dominion reach a coal ash settlement!

The two sides have each decided to do a thing, and maybe everybody wins?

Photo by: VCU CNS

Update #1 — March 9, 2016; 1:16 PM

Whoa, breaking news, guys. Dominion and the James River Association have settled!

Dominion will enhance treatment of the pond water and monitor fish tissue. They’ll have to submit a plan subject to review by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The James River Association and the Southern Environmental Law Center will not appeal the wastewater permit issued for the Bremo Power Station (and only the Bremo Power Station, no other permits are included in this deal).

Read more here.

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Original — March 07, 2016

By Julie Rothey | Capital News Service

The Southern Environmental Law Center plans to appeal the State Water Control Board‘s decision to allow Dominion Power to release treated wastewater from coal-ash ponds into the James River.

The law center filed the notice to appeal on behalf of the James River Association. The official appeal will be filed by mid-March.

The permits, granted in January, allow Dominion to release treated wastewater from ash pits on the site of the Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County, about 60 miles upstream from Richmond. The ash pits are filled with a mixture of water and coal ash left over from when the station was coal-fired.

The James River Association expressed concern about the levels of wastewater toxins, including arsenic and cadmium.

“There are technology standards that can get lower levels of arsenic and these other pollutants,” said Jamie Brunkow, the association’s riverkeeper for the lower James. “There’s precedent in other states, like North Carolina, to get those concentrations much, much lower.”

The river association wants these stricter standards in the permit.

Brunkow also said Dominion’s Concept Engineering Report showed the power company could reach lower toxin concentrations than are required in the permit.

The notice of appeal, filed on February 10th, also cites concern over the mixing zone allowed in the permits. It said the river would be used to dilute the pollutants to water quality standards, leaving a “mixing zone” area with higher levels of pollutants.

Brunkow said he is concerned about the pollution’s effects on animals living in what would be the mixing zone.

“These are the kinds of things that don’t break down. They build up in the food system,” Brunkow said. “It puts people at risk when they eat fish out of the river.”

Under Virginia anti-degradation laws, mixing zones are permitted only when socially or economically necessary. The environmental law center and river association argue there isn’t a social or economic need for a mixing zone in this situation.

Officials at Dominion Power say the treated wastewater would not hurt the environment.

“We believe that the permits issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality are among the most strict permits they have ever issued,” said Dan Genest, Dominion senior communications specialist. “We believe that they (the permits) will protect the James River and the Potomac River, and we intend to proceed with our work.”

Genest said decommissioning the ash pits by draining the water would protect the river from the possibility of a leaking ash pond.

The appeal will have no effect on Dominion or its plans for the Bremo station until a ruling is made in court.

Brunkow said the river association is especially concerned because these permits could be the first of many as Dominion seeks to decommission coal-ash pits across the state. He said the river association wants to set a precedent with this appeal, so future permits will have higher standards.

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