More than 200 citizens marched downtown to protest the permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) allowing Dominion Power to dump as much as 350 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into the James river on Saturday.
“No ACP,” the group resisting Dominion Resources’ environmentally destructive practices, organized the protest. More than 50 activists blocked vehicle access to Dominion Resources’ Tredegar Campus in Richmond, Virginia to protest the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“If we didn’t believe we had a strong case we probably wouldn’t engage in this,” said Pat Calvert, the Upper James Riverkeeper at the James River Association.
Calvert said he believes there’s a strong chance the DEQ permit will be repealed.
“James River Association likes to work things out and be reasonable and we’re not a group that has tended to formally appeal permits unless we really believe it’s necessary to prevent degradation to the river,” Calvert said.
The DEQ permit was issued Jan. 21 and allows coal ash dumping to take place from the Possum point plant on the banks of the Potomac and the Bremo power station 60 miles upstream of Richmond. The permit also sets legal precedent for future such permits.
Dominion currently has 11 wastewater ponds across the state, some of which are more than 50 years old.
Protesters marched Saturday for the DEQ to repeal the permit and issue a revised permit, requiring treatment of wastewater to drinking water standards.
The march began with various speakers on the topics of climate change and colonialism, eco-racism, Dominion and legislation, experiences in Flint, MI and other recent spills.
Traffic formed on Tredegar Street as activists stretched large banners across the road and paraded large puppets around the scene.
Two activists remain suspended from a pedestrian bridge with a banner reading “Stop Selling Our Futures” while a larger crowd occupied the access way to the campus below.
Protesters chanted “Coal ash kills. No dumping, no spills.”
Lisa Thompson was amongst the concerned citizens.
“They have issued permits that say the coal ash soaked water is safe to simply drain into rivers,” Thompson said. “Those permits should ensure treatment of the water first before let into the rivers instead of leaving it up the Dominion’s discretion to build filtering facilities and get it to drinking water qualities.”
Police arrested two men and six women for congregating on the capitol steps and demanding a visit or phone call from Gov. Terry McAuliffe; one of the arrested individuals was a reporter for the VCU Capital News Service wire.
Michael James-Deramo, present of the VCU chapter of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, organized a group of students to make posters the night before and march together Saturday.
“Dumping coal ash can be very detrimental to not only the river quality but also to our drinking water,” James-Deramo said. “This is putting that water at risk. The Department of Environmental Quality has taken very meager steps in making any regulations on Dominion’s pollutants.
According to Dominion spokesperson Rob Richardson, there was no other way to remove the waste water from the collection pond than dumping it into the James.
“Dominion is filtering and treating this water, it’s safe. its non toxic, it does not have coal-ash in it, it’s safe treated water,” Richardson said. “We live in Virginia too, we use the river, we boat on the river, we swim on the river, we take our families to the river, we are aren’t doing something that would harm the river.”
Staff Writer, Sophia Belletti
Sophia is a sophomore print/online journalism major with a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports and hopes to one day be a sports reporter, covering soccer, basketball and baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes. // Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn