Dominion Power, Chesapeake Energy Center Image credit:Resource International, LLC
With existing fly ash lagoons filling up, the electric power utility, Dominion Virginia Power, helped a golf course developer "build" a course by selling it fly ash to use in the landscaping. The Virginian-Pilot reports this statement from a nearby resident: "They paid people to take it from them, dig up the sand, the good land that we had over there. The developers sold the sand, took the fly ash that Dominion was paying them for and put it in our backyard." Recent test results showed arsenic in groundwater samples taken from the course-area at eight times the municipal drinking water standard. Now, of course, there is talk of a class action law suit.We're skipping over discussing merits and flaws of the lawsuit. Why did this happen?
The action bypassed solid waste regs.
The development involved moving the ash from a Dominion coal-fired power plant in Deep Creek, where the utility's ash landfill is subject to state solid-waste regulations, to a 217-acre parcel of farmland in the Fentress section of the city that was considered exempt from solid-waste rules.And saved money. Although in fairness it must be said that the State went along with the plan:
Citing state records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, The Virginian-Pilot reported in December that the golf course was considered a linchpin in the utility's plan to comply with the state's warning.
The utility was working to save money (as one should always expect a for-profit entity to do).
The State, which had regulatory oversight on the Dominion action, blew it's risk management responsibility. It's not a matter of "the science being uncertain." With hundreds of private wells proximate to the "golf course," and arsenic present in the fly ash, the decision to use fly ash as fill doesn't pass the "red face test."
What is the red-faced test? It's when, if told your parents what you'd done, you know they'd give you that look; and you'd be embarrassed.
Here's a clue for developers everywhere. If a company offers to pay you to accept their solid waste, think twice.