A panel of community residents is asking Dominion Energy to ship its Possum Point coal ash off to Charles County, Md., for recycling, but the electric utility is moving closer to a plan that would keep it in a landfill at the power station.
Formed early this year when Dominion announced that it was exploring three options – building an on-site landfill, shipping it to the Charles County facility for recycling, or sending it to another landfill – the panel of 11 nearby residents said at a town hall Tuesday night that it was requesting that Dominion use barges to ship the roughly 4 million cubic yards of coal ash.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, coal ash – also referred to as coal combustion residuals or CCRs – is produced primarily from the burning of coal in coal-fired power plants.
“The first thing is to treat the water prior to pumping it back into Quantico Creek. The second is to continue to investigate the barge option … to be able to [ship] the recyclable ash to Charles County,” Yolanda Green, the panel’s chair, said at the event organized by Potomac District Supervisor Andrea Bailey.
Ultimately, Green said, the group would like to see the current Pond D land and the rest of Possum Point turned into a “passive park” if it’s decommissioned.
“We continue to work with them and talk with them,” Green said, “… but these are the things we requested and talked about.”
Dominion, however, seems likely to choose the landfill option, which it says is the most cost-efficient and least disruptive to the nearby community with regards to truck or rail traffic.
Bailey said the company hasn’t provided a firm timeline on when it will make its final decision, but earlier this month Dominion gained county approval for a landfill as a by-right “public facility” use. At Bailey’s direction, county staff will conduct oversight and submit comments on Dominion’s eventual proposal to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, but with the land-use decision out of the way, the county has little say left in what Dominion chooses to do.
Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler, who was in attendance Tuesday night, said the fate of the coal ash at Possum Point was a matter that will affect the entire county, not just the Potomac District.
Bailey, whose district includes the Possum Point site, said her staff would continue to keep an open line of communication among the community, county government and Dominion.
Tom Smith, the county’s director of public works, told the crowd that Dominion entered into an agreement with the county years ago that makes any water discharge permitting more stringent at Possum Point than the standard. He added that Dominion has promised to work with the county on site and landfill design if it goes that route.
And Planning Director Rebecca Horner said that the site has lots of potential if Dominion decommissions the power plant, even if the company builds the 19-foot-high landfill.
“[Possum Point] presents some very unique challenges, but also some unique opportunities, and hopefully … we can start realizing those opportunities,” Horner said.
Dominion is pledging that if it builds a landfill, the double-lined design will go above and beyond state regulations for preventing any waste from seeping into the groundwater. Eventually, the company will have to submit all its plans to the Department of Environmental Quality for review before construction.
Still, some residents have expressed safety concerns about the proposed landfill site’s proximity to nearby Potomac Shores homes. And one resident said Tuesday that although Dominion said the landfill option would require the least trucking through those residential areas, he expected that the utility would have to truck lots of material in to build the landfill.
Smith said he expected that Dominion would try to make as much use as possible of soil excavated for the landfill to minimize importing materials, but that either way, the county would be working closely with the utility to minimize impacts on nearby residents.
“Certainly we believe we can influence Dominion on those issues,” he said.