An "Outstanding Win" Against Coal Ash - Waterkeeper

An “Outstanding Win” Against Coal Ash

By: Waterkeeper Alliance

Smoke billows from Dominion Energy’s Chesterfield Power Station, which was devastating the area’s waters. Photo by James River Association.

For their work fighting Dominion Energy and stopping the leaking of coal-ash pits into the Potomac and James rivers and neighboring drinking-water wells, the Waterkeepers Chesapeake coalition has given Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks and James Riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow its Waterkeeper Outstanding Win Award.

“We can only hope removing millions of tons of ash provides some level of satisfaction to these impacted communities.”

Dean was the first to document the leaching of toxic coal-ash pits into the river, the first to test the drinking water of nearby residents, and the first to believe that a small nonprofit could take on a large corporation like Dominion Energy and win.

“I’ve been fighting Duke Energy and Dominion Power for the past five years,” said Dean. “Finding a way to make these polluters clean up their toxic coal ash is obviously rewarding, but there is no real justice for the communities and people these companies poisoned. We can only hope removing millions of tons of ash provides some level of satisfaction to these impacted communities.”

After four years of diligent investigation and advocacy by Dean and Jamie, Virginia lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1533 to resolve Virginia’s longstanding coal-ash-pollution problem. Dominion Energy’s unlined coal-ash pits continue to leak toxic waste and chemicals into the Potomac, James, and Elizabeth Rivers, but the legislation requires all 28 million tons of “legacy” coal ash stored in the company’s ash ponds to be recycled or safely landfilled within 15 years.

“For years Virginia has considered options for safely closing coal-ash ponds,” said Brunkow. “Our elected leaders and vocal concerned citizens have remained steadfast in pursuing the right path for Virginia. By tackling this tremendous challenge we’ll ensure that the river is cleaner for the next generation.”