The Commonwealth of Virginia has reached an agreement to ensure that coal combustion residuals (CCR or “coal ash”) at a major dump site in Chesapeake will not threaten water quality or public health. The Northam Administration, through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), has executed a Memorandum of Agreement with Dominion Energy dealing with coal ash at Dominion’s Chesapeake Energy Center (CEC).
“By executing this agreement, we are removing uncertainty about proper handling of coal ash at the Chesapeake Energy Center and ensuring the protection of our water quality,” said Governor Northam.
“This agreement provides a path forward for a consistent and holistic approach to regulating coal ash at this site,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “Groundwater monitoring, corrective actions, and, if necessary, removal and offsite disposal are now all on the table.”
The agreement addresses historical coal ash deposits located below the existing landfill and coal ash pond at CEC in what is referred to as the “Historic Pond” at the site. Because the Historic Pond was not initially set up and permitted as a solid waste facility and long ago stopped receiving coal ash, it was unclear whether the site was required to meet the same environmental standards as other coal ash dumps.
The agreement establishes that the Historic Pond will be subject to the same regulatory requirements and protections related to groundwater monitoring, corrective action, closure and post-closure care as required under the 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s CCR Rule, which has been incorporated into Virginia’s solid waste regulations.
The agreement shall terminate once a final solid waste permit has been issued by DEQ that will address the existing landfill, coal ash pond, and the Historic Pond. CEC’s solid waste permit is on hold pursuant to the moratorium passed by the General Assembly while Dominion presents a business plan outlining options for recycling and beneficial use of coal ash at various sites.
CCR is a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity. Nationwide, approximately 40 percent of coal ash is beneficially used in products such as concrete.
The CEC opened in 1953 and operated four coal-fired electric generation units that were closed in 2014. The CEC is located on a peninsula surrounded by the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, Deep Creek, and a former cooling water discharge channel. In 2014, the CEC stopped producing CCR. Dominion Energy routed CCR from its generating units to an area designated for disposal.
In 1970, Dominion Energy sold an approximately 24-acre tract of land comprising the northern portion of the pond to a third party, who in turn developed and constructed a Liquefied Natural Gas facility on that property that continues to operate.
In 1984, the predecessor to the DEQ issued Dominion Energy a solid waste permit to build and operate a lined landfill for CCR disposal within the footprint of the pond at the CEC.
In 1985, Dominion Energy, in constructing the landfill, stabilized and placed a synthetic liner over the portion of the pond at the CEC. When the landfill was built, a Bottom Ash Pond and Sedimentation Pond were also created in a separate adjacent area within the footprint of the pond. The Bottom Ash Pond received sluiced bottom ash (a type of CCR) from the plant until December 2014. Some of that bottom ash was periodically excavated and hauled to the landfill for disposal or marketed for beneficial reuse.
For more information and updates, visit www.DEQ.Virginia.gov.