Judge rules Dominion’s coal ash pit polluted Virginia water

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal judge has found Virginia’s largest utility violated the federal Clean Water Act because arsenic is flowing from a coal ash impoundment in Chesapeake, polluting ground and surface water.

U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. issued the ruling Thursday in a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club against Dominion Virginia Power. But the judge also found that the arsenic discharge poses no health or environmental threat, and so did not order the ash removed to a synthetically lined landfill, as the Sierra Club wanted.

Instead, he said Dominion must do more tests and the two sides must submit a remediation plan.

An attorney who represented the Sierra Club expressed disappointment the court didn’t order a “full cleanup.”

Below is a statement from Dominion:

Dominion is pleased that the court has confirmed there has been no threat to health or the environment resulting from the coal ash stored at its former Chesapeake Energy Center. As we have maintained consistently, the safety of the public, the water and the environment is our top priority. The court noted there has been “no evidence that shows any injury . . .  has occurred to health or the environment.”

We also note the court found that removing the ash from the site – as demanded by the Sierra Club – is not a logical action. “The public interest will not be served,” the court found. Removing the ash “will entail years of efforts costing hundreds of millions of dollars, for very little return,” and would result in higher electric rates for customers. Furthermore, the court wrote, “The Sierra Club has not even attempted to itemize the collateral environmental effects of moving this much coal ash.”

And, we are pleased the court cited Dominion as “a good corporate citizen” that has “cooperated with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality every step of the way in operating” the facility.” It noted that we followed all permits.  Dominion should not suffer penalties for doing things that it, and the Commonwealth, thought complied with state and federal law,” the court said.

In light of those findings, the court has imposed no civil penalties on Dominion.

While we are still reviewing the order and considering further actions, Dominion remains committed to protecting the people, environment and waterways of the Commonwealth.

Dominion is evaluating additional groundwater treatment options for the site, including technologies that would treat any impacted groundwater at the property boundary, for DEQ’s consideration as part of the closure process.

And, we are evaluating the court’s ruling to determine the appropriate next steps.

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