Federal judge rules Dominion’s coal ash is illegally polluting Elizabeth River

NORFOLK, Va. – A federal judge ruled Thursday that Dominion Virginia Power is illegally polluting the Elizabeth River.

The Southern Environmental Law Center said the judge ruled that Dominion is violating the Clear Water Act.

Dominion’s coal ash is contaminating groundwater flowing from the site of a former coal-burning power plant.

The groundwater is flowing into the Elizabeth River, the center said.

The federal judge sided with the Sierra Club’s experts, and rejected the testimony of Dominion’s experts.

In the release sent by the The Southern Environmental Law Center they said the judge ruled:

• The utility’s claim that arsenic-contaminated groundwater does not reach the river is not correct.
• That the coal ash ponds and piles are “point sources” under the Clean Water Act, rejecting Dominion’s argument that the facility was too large to be considered a single source of contamination. The judge explained, “Dominion created those piles specifically for coal ash and they channeled the pollutants away from the old power plant and directly into the groundwater.”
• That the process of “natural attenuation,” or “letting nature take its course,” is a “completely ineffective ‘solution’”… that “may never get rid of the arsenic in the groundwater.”

The judge is not requiring Dominion to excavate the unlined, leaking pipes at the now closed Chesapeake Energy Center.

The judge will, however, require Dominion to perform additional testing and asks that both sides submit briefs outlining “a detailed remedial plan.”

This is the first time a federal judge has ruled after a full trial that a utility broke the law because of the way it stores coal ash, the center said.