Online News Editor
Officials from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held a public hearing to discuss permits to allow Dominion Virginia Power to build a coal ash dump at the Chesterfield County library Wednesday night.
The meeting, which was originally planned for Feb. 24 and rescheduled after violent storms caused confusion with the public, was a chance for the public to voice concerns about the permits prior to their official issuance by the state agency. The permit in question for the night was Permit 609, which would authorize the construction of a coal ash dump to be built on the grounds of the Chesterfield County Power station.
The Permits said the dumps would be constructed in 2016, with usage beginning in 2017. The dumps would be lined with a plastic composite liner to prevent coal ash from entering the groundwater supply, and the James River.
Coal ash is the byproduct of burning coal for energy purposes and can contain chemicals such as lead and arsenic which are harmful to humans as well as the environment.
The permits detail that the life expectancy of the plastic liners in the dumps would be about 20 years. Dominion would have responsibility of the site for 50 years.
11 people, teachers, mothers and residents of Chesterfield spoke to offer comment on the permits. Comments were based around the issues related to the plastic lining of the dumps that could fail after their life expectancy.
“The fatal flaw of solid waste landfills is that they are subject to natural forces,” said Emeline Phipps, a Chesterfield County resident and teacher, as well as a member of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defence League.
In her comments to the DEQ, she said that the liners would not be a permanent solution to contain coal ash pollutants.
“Impartial experts agree that liner failure in inevitable,” Phipps said. “Even the EPA admits that all liners ll feel.”
Tomas Pakurar, vice president of technology for Hands Across the Lake, a local area environmental group, said that the liners would not work.
“This technology that we use that’s legal, just doesn’t work, it leaks,” Pakurar said. “We still are left with an unsatisfactory design, we don’t know what to do.”
Marie stella, a local grandmother who has offered public comment to other DEQ permits said that the 20 year life expectancy would cause harm to her grandchildren.
“I’m kind of sad to be here again but my sadness is becoming anger,” Stella said. “You are saying this landfill will last about 20 years, some of our grandchildren will be just about 20 years when that time.”
The coal ash dumps will be surrounded by a system of ground water wells. The system will allow the detection of ash leakage into the groundwater around the plant, with the water being tested bi annually.
Cathy Taylor, director of the electric environmental services at Dominion Power told the public hearing that the construction of the dumps would be environmentally responsible.
The project under consideration is just one intended environmental improvement at the facility.
The landfill applies to the rules, groundwater monitoring network.
Bob Olson, a concerned member of the public recommended that the groundwater should be tested more frequently than biannually.
“Sampling should be done on a monthly basis,” Olsen said. “By the time it’s gone into the monitoring every six months it’s too late.”
Staff Writer, Andrew Crider
Andrew 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