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Dominion Announces Treatment Plan for Coal Ash Water

Environmentalists are celebrating today. Dominion Power has agreed to treat water it plans to release into the James River from old coal ash ponds.

Dominion's plans to permanently shut down its coal ash ponds, leftover remnants from burning coal at the now-natural-gas Bremo Power Plant, created a stir among river-enthusiasts beginning in January. That's because the waste produced from burning coal contains heavy metals like arsenic, lead and copper.

Bremo, which is about 40 miles upstream of Richmond on the James, has three lagoons on-site where ash is stored in millions of gallons of water. When the EPA released a set of rules on how to safely shut down and get rid of the ponds, Dominion applied for a permit from Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality to begin that process.

Dominion was granted permission to move forward with their plan to take water from the ponds, treat it, then dispose of it in the river. But groups like the James River Association and the Southern Environmental Law Center said the permits were too lenient, failing to hold Dominion to a standard of quality safe for wildlife in the river.

Dominion has maintained they will treat the water before releasing it, but now they've agreed to make that legally binding.

Jason Williams, an environmental manager at Dominion, says they hope to set an industry standard for the process.

“We’re some of the first in the country to install the treatment system, we’re some of the first to treat all the water being discharged," Williams said "Those are what we hope will be industry-leading for all our peers.” 

Jason Williams of Dominion

Under the agreement, Dominion will stringently monitor the system, as well as apply an enhanced level of filtering should water reach unsafe measures of certain pollutants.

In return, the James River Association and SELC will withdraw a repeal of the permit they had previously filed. Bill Street is CEO of the James River Association.

"We thank Dominion for engaging with us in a cooperative manner to address our concerns about the de-watering of Dominion's coal ash ponds," said Street in a statement.

Dominion hopes to begin testing its treatment system soon.