Groups seek second meeting on coal ash permits

Photo by Andrew Crider.
Photo by Andrew Crider.

 

Photo by Andrew Crider.
Photo by Andrew Crider.

The State Department of Environmental Quality will host a second meeting to discuss coal ash permits after violent storms interrupted a meeting in late February.

The permit in question, Permit 609, would discuss a proposed landfill for coal ash waste. The proposed landfill, known as the Chesterfield Power Station FFCP Management Facility, would be forced to comply with federal solid waste rules. The rules set by the EPA define how the coal ash landfills must be enclosed and separated from land to prevent coal ash from seeping into the groundwater supply.  

The Virginia Peoples Climate, a chapter of a larger environmental organization known as the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, submitted a letter to the DEQ requesting an additional hearing to discuss the permits issued to Dominion earlier this year.

No ACP, an organization against Dominion Resources Inc, recently joined VPC in this endeavor.

​“We are requesting that an additional public hearing be scheduled prior to the close of public comments and any final decision on this permit,” said Emeline Phipps, member of the BREDL, in his letter to the DEQ.

Coal ash waste is the byproduct of burning coal to produce power. It contains chemicals such as lead, arsenic and other toxins that can be harmful to human and environmental life.

The DEQ will host meetings to give the public an opportunity  to voice concerns about the permit. The meeting for Permit 609 was scheduled Wednesday Feb. 24. On that day, violent storms killed four people in Southeastern Virginia.

“Many people who were planning to attend the hearing were deterred due to these very obvious safety concerns,” Phipps said.

According to Phipps, the meeting was scheduled to be held at the Chesterfield County Public Library. However, after the state of emergency was declared by Governor Terry McAuliffe, Phipps said that citizens who were on their way to the meeting were misinformed by library staff ​that the hearing had been postponed.

According to the letter, Justin Miller, land protection manager and permit writer, had acknowledged a miscommunication with the library staff prior to the meeting.

“We were just a few miles from the library when our phones started alerting us to take shelter immediately,” said Whitney Whiting, community organizer for the BREDL. “We called the library again and were informed by library staff that the public hearing was being postponed because hardly anyone from the public had arrived.”

After the phone call, Whiting spoke with an acquaintance who was at the meeting who informed her the meeting went on as scheduled.

According to an email from Bill Hayden of the Public Affairs Office for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the DEQ has scheduled a second public hearing on Dominion’s application for a coal ash landfill at the Chesterfield power station.

“This is not for discharging coal ash wastewater. Rather, it is for disposal of coal ash in a solid waste landfill,” Hayden said.

This hearing is in addition to the one held Feb. 24 when the tornado warning occurred. Four people spoke at that meeting in opposition to the permit.

Citizens previously had until March 10 to voice concerns about the permit before the permit can be issued. Now the public will have until March 31 to offer comment.

This is not the first permit issue the DEQ has faced this year. In January, The DEQ received public outcry and protest over permits that would allow Dominion to dump coal ash wastewater into the James River.

Coal ash waste water is the product of mixing solid coal ash debris into water for storage. There are 11 coal ash ponds in Virginia that must be drained in order to meet new federal regulations implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Currently, Dominion plans to dump the waste water into Virginia’s waterways before excavating the coal ash and placing it into sealed landfills, like the one planned in Chesterfield. Dominion has also promised to chemically treat the wastewater before dumping it into the James.

Bill Hayden, spokesperson for the DEQ, said the DEQ will amend permits based on public criticism if the criticism is significant.

“If we get significant public comment, we can make changes to the permit,” Hayden said. “DEQ looks at the application and sees how well its adheres to the laws and regulations, we hold public hearings, we have a public comment period,and we draft the permit.”


Print News Editor, Andrew Crider

Andrew Crider, photo by Brooke MarshAndrew is a junior economics major who has written for student newspapers since he was in high school. Andrew is interested in political history, aviation, photography and running. He has a tendency to refer to his peers, coworkers and bosses as “ma’am” or “sir,” but is getting better about referring to his friends at the CT by their first names instead. // Facebook

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