Chesapeake Energy Center Bottom Ash / Sedimentation Pond
- Owner: Dominion Virginia Power
- Parent company: Dominion
- Associated coal plant: Chesapeake Energy Center
- Location: Chesapeake, VA
- GPS coordinates: 36.7700, -76.3000
- Hazard potential: None
- Year commissioned: 1950s
- Year(s) expanded: 1984
- Material(s) stored: Fly ash, Bottom ash, Boiler slag
- Professional Engineer (PE) designed?: Yes
- PE constructed?: Yes
- PE monitored?: Yes
- Significant deficiencies identified: None
- Corrective measures: None
- Surface area (acres): 10
- Storage capacity (acre feet): 77
- Unit Height (feet): 15
- Historical releases: None
- Additional notes:
Coal waste in the United States
A January 2009 study by The New York Times following the enormous TVA coal ash spill found that there are more than 1,300 surface impoundments across the U.S. containing coal waste, with some sites as large as 1,500 acres. Also in January 2009, an Associated Press study found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to the one that ruptured at Kingston Fossil Plant. The states with the most storage in coal ash in ponds are Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. The AP's analysis found that in 2005, 721 power plants generating at least 100 MW of electricity produced 95.8 million tons of coal ash, about 20 percent of which - or almost 20 million tons - ended up in surface ponds. The rest of the ash winds up in landfills or is sold for other uses. In June 2009, EPA released its list of 44 "high hazard potential" coal waste sites, which included 12 sites in North Carolina, 9 in Arizona, 6 in Kentucky, 6 in Ohio, and 4 in West Virginia. The full list is available here.
Chesapeake Energy coal ash used to make VA golf course
In 2008, worries and complaints about water contamination from Chesapeake's Battlefield Golf Club at Centerville surfaced. Officials at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) allowed developers to build the golf course with coal ash. Upon hearing of the complaints, a former employee said the DEQ attempted to limit the paper trail related to the project so the agency couldn't be blamed. The employee - Allen Brockman, a DEQ groundwater expert from 2001 to 2009 - said he saved e-mails that support his contentions. Brockman said the presence of any groundwater contamination on the golf course, which has been established, is enough for DEQ to declare the property an open dump site and to order all the ash removed, but that hasn't happened.
The golf course involved the transfer of 1.5 million tons of ash from an overloaded coal waste landfill, the Chesapeake Energy Center Bottom Ash / Sedimentation Pond at Dominion Virginia Power's Chesapeake Energy Center, to a marshy, 217-acre site near scores of residential drinking-water wells. Brockman said DEQ allowed the golf course to be built against the backdrop of a chronic arsenic leaching problem at Dominion's coal-ash landfill, treated only with a binding agent to make the course. A "corrective action plan" to remediate the leaching arsenic at the landfill, along the Elizabeth River, had been in development for years. "So the idea of taking this same coal ash, from a landfill site, and placing it in the middle of a community would have been not only unacceptable, but frankly unconscionable," Brockman stated in his affidavit. Even with the use of a binding agent, which Brockman said was ineffective, no groundwater expert would have let the project move forward under any circumstances. Yet he said the early meetings between Dominion and DEQ did not include groundwater experts.
Brockman quit his job in Fall 2009 and in October 2010 released a six-page affidavit to The Virginian-Pilot in which he traces what he calls "the cozy, corporate-friendly culture" that led to his decision. He is a geologist with degrees from Duke, Indiana University and the University of Richmond Law School. Roy Mason and Ted Yoakam, the attorneys representing hundreds of plaintiffs in a $1 billion lawsuit against Dominion and several other parties over the golf course project, also represent Brockman, who said he retained the attorneys because he felt he needed legal protection as he challenged the state. He may testify on behalf of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but Brockman said he would get no part of any settlement. Among the exhibits in the suit are handwritten minutes taken by a developer at a meeting of representatives from Dominion and DEQ in February 2002 that Brockman said show how DEQ found a way for the project to move forward. The golf course project should have been regulated as a landfill, with a liner and groundwater monitoring, but instead it was considered exempt from such requirements because the fly ash was deemed a "beneficial use."
The EPA reported earlier this year that tests show contaminants such as arsenic are not migrating from the fly ash on the golf course to nearby residential wells. Dominion, meanwhile, is moving forward with a $6 million plan to extend city water to affected homes nearby. Brockman, however, argues it is likely just a matter of time before other residents with wells farther downstream are affected. The golf course site, Brockman concluded, "will likely contaminate both the Yorktown and Columbia aquifers, endangering the health and safety of the men, women and children of the surrounding community." Dominion and Bill Hayden, a DEQ spokesman in Richmond, declined to respond specifically to Brockman's allegations.
Virginia residents file $1 billion suit against Dominion over fly ash site
In March 2009, attorneys representing almost 400 residents who live near Battlefield Golf Club in Virginia filed a lawsuit in Chesapeake Circuit Court, seeking over $1 billion in damages. The suit claims that Dominion Virginia Power sent fly ash to the site, ignoring a consultant's determination that the ash would leach harmful elements into the local drinking water supply. The lawsuit names as defendants Dominion, course developer CPM Virginia LLC, and VFL Technology Corp., Dominion's coal-ash management consultant. The suit accuses the companies of committing conspiracy and fraud, battery, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and the creation of a nuisance. The resident's attorneys are demanding the removal of all fly ash from the site; the cleaning of the aquifer and installation of public water and sewer service; compensation for personal injury and decreased property values; and the creation of a fund for treatment costs and health monitoring.
Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Dominion coal waste sites
The study "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash," released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011, reported elevated levels of hexavalent chromium, a highly potent cancer-causing chemical, at several coal ash sites in Virginia. In all, the study cited 29 sites in 17 states where hexavalent chromium contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash as well as from studies by EarthJustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club. It included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin.
According to the report, hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was found at elevated levels at the following sites:
- Dominion's Yorktown Power Station unlined coal ash pond at 100 ppb (parts per billion) - 5,000 times the proposed California drinking water goals and above the federal drinking water standard.
- Chesapeake, Virginia's Battlefield Golf Course unlined coal waste fill above 100 ppb (parts per billion) - 5,000 times the proposed California drinking water goals and above the federal drinking water standard. The golf course involved the transfer of 1.5 million tons of ash from an overloaded coal waste landfill, the Chesapeake Energy Center Bottom Ash / Sedimentation Pond at Dominion Virginia Power's Chesapeake Energy Center.
A press release about the report read:
- Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.
According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.
- Center for Public Integrity
- Energy Justice Network
- Environmental Integrity Project
- Institute for Southern Studies
- Organic Consumers Association
- Sludge Safety Project
- Sierra Club
- Southern Environmental Law Center
- Coal Ash Survey Results, Environmental Protection Agency, accessed December 2009.
- Shaila Dewan, "Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Regulation," New York Times, January 7, 2009.
- Dina Cappiello, "Toxic Coal Ash Piling up in Ponds in 32 States," Associated Press, January 9, 2009.
- Shaila Dewan, "E.P.A. Lists ‘High Hazard’ Coal Ash Dumps," New York Times, June 30, 2009.
- Robert McCabe, "Former worker: Agency's OK to use fly ash 'unconscionable'" PilotOnline.com, October 3, 2010.
- Roger McCabe, "400 residents sue Dominion, developer over fly-ash site," Virginia Pilot, March 27, 2009.
- "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
- "Damage Case Report for Coal Combustion Wastes," August 2008
- U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
- EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
- EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
- "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Coal Ash Safety Issues, Donald Saxman, altenergymag.com (undated)
- "Coal Ash: 130 Million Tons of Waste," 60 Minutes, October 4, 2009.
- Charles Duhigg, "Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, At a Cost in Suffering,", New York Times, September 12, 2009.
- Kirstin Lombardi, "Coal ash: The hidden story," Center for Public Integrity, February 19, 2009.
- "Coal Ash: A National Problem Needs a National Solution," Earth Justice fact sheet, January 2009.
- "Toxic Ash: A License to Pollute," Post and Courier, October 26-29, 2008.
- "Coal Combustion Waste," As You May or May Not Know..., March 27, 2008.
- House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources: Oversight Hearing, "How Should the Federal Government Address the Health and Environmental Risks of Coal Combustion Waste?,", June 10, 2007.
- Martha Keating, "Cradle to Grave: The Environmental Impacts from Coal," Clean Air Task Force, June 2001.
- Martha Keating, Ellen Baum and Eric Round, "Laid to Waste: The Dirty Secret of Combustion Waste from America's Power Plants," Citizens Coal Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, Clean Air Task Force, March 2000.