The bill would call for storage site owners to review other options of disposal, such as recycling the coal ash for use in cement or moving it to a safer landfill, before the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality would issue a permit to close the areas.
The Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill on Feb. 2, the report says. The proposal only affects coal ash sites owned by Dominion Virginia Power, Richmond, Virginia, and the Chesapeake Bay watershed and would require Dominion to identify any water pollution from the sites and find a solution.
Large spills in Tennessee in 2008 and North Carolina in 2014 caused the focus on coal ash storage, the report says. Dominion has looking at capping its Chesapeake, Virginia, Energy Center site with topsoil and a synthetic cover, but residents are concerned about the site leaking into waterways. According to the report, Dominion says the bill would further delay its closure plans.
Dominion’s Possum Point facility contains multiple ash storage ponds within 120 acres of land. According to the report, one resident testified that his well water was polluted and his family was forced to switch to bottled water. The company plans to reimburse the residents so they can connect to municipal water.
A study by the Southern Environmental Law Center, Charlottesville, Virginia, claims millions of tons of coal ash was buried at the Chesapeake site and was vulnerable to “coastal hazards, including flooding, storm surge, erosion and sea level rise,” the report says. The Chesapeake facility holds 3.3 million tons of coal ash, two-thirds in unlined pits and the remainder in a lined landfill built above a portion of the old pits.
The bill was sent to the full Senate for a vote as of Feb. 3.