Dominion Virginia Power said Friday it plans to close all of the coal ash ponds at its Virginia power stations, including the companyâ€™s Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield County, where a new landfill for coal ash is in the works. The decision comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday finalized new regulations for the disposal of coal ash. The rules were first announced in December. Coal ash ponds store waste left from the burning of coal to produce energy. The ponds are controversial because of leakage and spills, including a spill in February 2014 at a storage site in Eden, North Carolina, operated by Duke Energy that released thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River. In addition to its Chesterfield Power Station, Dominion said it will close ponds at three other locations in Virginia: Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County, Chesapeake Energy Center in Chesapeake, and Possum Point Power Station in Prince William County. In a statement, Dominion said the closures mean â€œin general, the ponds â€¦ will be drained and covered by a rugged, impermeable liner, then topped with 24 inches of soil. Either grass or sod will be planted on top of the soil.â€ Dominion said closing the ponds in that manner will comply with the EPA standards. â€œAt a minimum, that is what we will do,â€ said Dan Genest, a Dominion spokesman. In some cases, the ash itself may be removed from the ponds, but specifics of the closure plans will be determined by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, he said. Genest said Dominion will have three years to complete the closures. Environmental groups, which unsuccessfully argued that the EPA should classify coal ash as hazardous waste, contend that capping storage ponds is not sufficient.
â€œIt wonâ€™t stop the pollution,â€ said Greg Buppert, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. â€œIt doesnâ€™t solve the basic problem with these ponds, which is they leak out the sides and bottom.â€ â€œThe solution is to bring coal ash storage up to the standards of a modern landfill,â€ he said. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit in March on behalf of the Sierra Club against Dominion claiming that coal ash sites at a power plant in Chesapeake leak arsenic and other chemicals into groundwater and the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. Dominion said it disagrees with the allegations and will fight the lawsuit. Dominion said it no longer uses coal as a fuel at the Bremo, Chesapeake and Possum Point power stations. The Chesterfield Power Station is still burning coal. Genest said the company is in the process of building â€œa completely new, state-of the-art landfill,â€ at the power station, to replace the existing wet and dry coal ash storage sites.
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