Could Virginia Recycle Its Stockpile of Coal Ash?

May 14, 2018

Power lines tower over a coal ash pond from an abandoned coal fired power plant in Chesapeake, Va.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber, File

Lawmakers are in Richmond this week to figure out what to do with industrial pollution created by decades of fossil fuels.

Decades of pollution is sitting in four coal ash ponds in different parts of Virginia, and lawmakers still don’t really know what to do with it. Some want to cap it in place and leave it there. Others want to dig it up and recycle it. Rob Richardson at Dominion Energy says the next few months may end up being a key time for figuring out the future of these ponds.

"We want to put together a comprehensive plan for all the companies that want to recycle coal ash so that we better understand the market around this issue. Coal ash can be recycled. We know that because we recycle it into products like cement block and wallboard and even some products like bowling balls.”

Senator Scott Surovell says now is the time to bowl a strike.

“If we recycle it into products we take care of it forever. So that’s why I like recycling. Recycling is a way to take care of this problem once and for all, make some jobs while we’re at it and be done with this forever.”

But there’s also a significant price tag. Digging up all that pollution costs way more than capping it into place. And bringing all those trucks into people’s neighborhoods to recycle it likely will disrupt their quality of life.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.