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Coal Ash: EPA Indicates Dangers in Chesterfield County

"The EPA classified eight coal ash ponds in the commonwealth as "significant hazards," meaning that containment failure could cause "economic loss, environmental damage" and other impacts.

Those eight sites are ... the lower ash pond at the Chesterfield Power Station, two ash ponds at Possum Point Power Station in Chester

Click Here for the Article in the Daily Press

Update on the Article: Dominion made a correction to the author later, only one of Dominions Coal Ash Landfills are lined.

Coal Ash: Message from Tom Pakurar

At our last meeting I promised to provide pertinent data from the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and Earth Justice showing all the poisons in coal ash runoff and their toxic threats on our health and our body.  Each element is commonly found in the effluent coal ash storage ponds. Even though each of these elements are listed as toxic in the data bases of the US Dept. of Health, ATSDR, the EPA currently rules that coal ash ponds are not harmful.

The legal logic of that ruling escapes me as my background is in application of the precautionary principle when dealing with poisons and hazardous materials. To quote the PSR essay on coal ash, attached, "The precautionary principle states that where an action risks causing harm to the public or to the environment, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those who would take the action. In other words, rather than waiting until harm has occurred, we should require those who want to use coal ash to demonstrate that the proposed use is safe."

Applying that principle to the Duke Energy coal ash spill February 2, 2014, Eden, NC, requires actions along two parallel paths:

1. Remediation along the Dan River, and its aquifers, ground water reservoirs and Kerr Lake itself.

2. Changing the governing laws from a regulatory approach to a performance driven approach, so coal ash poisons are not continuing to be discharged at harmful levels into the Dan River or other receiving waters.

Let me comment further on item two. A review of NPDES required data of the Duke Energy coal ash pond at Eden, NC from 2010 to October, 2012 (34 consecutive months) showed high levels of both arsenic and selenium being discharged into the Dan River. These were the only two poisons actually measured. The justification in the permit is dilution of the river water. If legal, that should be changed so all effluent from the waste dump meets clean water standards. Ideally the goal should be zero arsenic and selenium. With today's technology, that should be readily achievable.

Both arsenic and selenium are poisons. Arsenic has been used for over 900 years to murder prominent politicians like Napoleon. It's advantage is that it is odorless and tasteless. High levels of Selenium have been shown to kill lake ecosystems. Both uses are unacceptable.

I've attached the handbook from the PSR based on their research from the 2008 toxic coal ash spill in Kingsport, TN.

Perhaps James could post this letter and my two attached references  on the HAL website to begin a dialogue in Chesterfield County. Coal ash continues to be brought into the Shoesmith Landfill next to the Highlands residential area from both the closed dump in Henrico County and the Dominion Power station in Chester VA. Shoesmith recently received a permit to construct a wall using coal ash with a reinforcing material. We need to be watchful as Chesterfield County has had poor experience using coal ash near Chesterfield Town Center as a fill material. Both Kohls and Target had major foundation problems in that location because of the coal ash fill.


Thomas A. Pakurar, Ph.D.

Vice President - Science & Technology

Hands Across the Lake


Click here for a Report of Coal Ash Effects on Human Health from Physicians for Social Responsibility.


Click Here for information on the Dan River Coal Ash Spill

Skinquater Landfill: HAL is Opposed to this Expansion

The Skin Quarter Landfill is not going away.  They are planning to do a real PR campaign.

One of the big issues is the quantity of the water that they would be using, they say the medium will be kept wet to prevent air pollution.   But the only water out there is ground water and they said they had 15, or so, wells surrounding the place.  The residential and farm, etc. development out there all depend on well water and they have in recent years gone dry---so this facility will use a lot of water potentially and pollute the water as well.

They will come back in the summer when the PTA is not active.  There was a letter in the Observer criticizing the PTA for protecting our water and air.

The Landfill Application, has been withdrawn for the moment, but while case has been withdrawn, it would appear that this is a tactical movement only. It the face of much opposition, it seems as though rather than be denied at the Planning commission level, they will begin a large PR campaign. Most likely they will re-file the case so it can be heard during the summer months, when many people are away on vacation, and the strong PTA lobby might be less effective. Stay Tuned.


Lake Chesden News: Water Supply for Chesterfield is Limited

Should the County Protect Lake Chesden water levels with Automatic Water restrictions and a user fee on high volume irrigation water users as Henrico does?

The bigger argument is long term availability of enough water for county residents. Tiered rates and alternate day irrigation are a simple, effective measures to stretch available water capacity for additional decades.

Another argument ofr this is the marginal cost argument.

Marginal Cost Argument:
·         The county has sized the water distribution system to meet peak demand.
·         The summer and fall peak demand is primarily caused by high volume water consumers (lawn irrigation).
·         The cost of the additional infrastructure needed to support the peak demand (extra water towers, pumping stations and larger diameter pipes) is reflected in the water rate charges.
·         Low volume water consumers pay the same rates as high volume consumers and a percentage of those rates include the costs for the infrastructure.
·         Therefore, low volume consumers contribute to the cost for a capacity level that only high volume consumers use.
·         Also, the infrastructure needed to support this peak demand is under-utilized for much of the year.

Agenda item for the Board of Supervisors to address:

1.       County ordinance to allow watering of lawns on alternate days.

2.       Implementation of the tiered water rate plan for residential accounts and commercial irrigation accounts.

3.       Continued support for community awareness of water conservation and proper irrigation methods as promoted by the Utility Department and the Cooperative Extension.



1.       Reduce irrigation rates within the county by 50%, from 14MGD to 7MGD

2.       Allocate the resulting water savings to Swift Creek and Chesdin Reservoirs while keeping the existing withdrawal rate from Richmond at its current level of approximately 26% of county needs; Swift Creek: 22%, Chesdin: 52%.

Irrigation Information:
1.       Since 2005, water used for irrigation has increased from 17.0% to 35.2% of the total water used in Chesterfield during the peak irrigation month of August.  For the next highest month, October, the irrigation rate increased from 12.6% to 30.8% over the same period.
2.       Over the past 5 years 13.9 and 10.4 million gallons of water per day were used for irrigation in August and October, respectively.
3.       There are approximately 12,300 residential and 1100 commercial irrigation systems in Chesterfield County.
4.       For Chesterfield County FY2012, the average amount of water used by each residential irrigation system was 93,000 gallons.  The water commodity charge for this amount of water is only $177.
5.       For Chesterfield County FY2012, the average amount of water used by each commercial irrigation system was 529,000 gallons.    The water commodity charge for this amount of water is only $1,006.
6.       For Chesterfield County FY2012, the average amount of water used per person was 28,800 gallons.  Of that amount, 3,550 gallons went for lawn irrigation; that’s over 19 years of drinking water for one person at 8 cups per day!
7.       For Chesterfield County FY2012, a total of 1.73 billion gallons of water was used for lawn irrigation. That’s equivalent to over one-third of the amount of water contained in Swift Creek reservoir when it is full.
8.       The above irrigation figures do not count irrigation done by hose and sprinkler.
9.       A press release from the Chesterfield Utility Department on 1/7/2008 regarding the 2007 water restriction stated “On average, water consumption was reduced approximately 7 million gallons per day.  On Mondays, when no outside watering was allowed, a reduction of as much as 14 million gallons per day was realized.”
10.   In a study done by the Chesterfield Utility Department for FY2011, 70% of the water bills for that year fell into the base category of 18ccf water usage for a 2-month period.  Those bills, using 18ccf or fewer, are expected to be charged the base rate.  The base rate is equal to the current water commodity charge.
11.   The Chesterfield County Cooperative Extension recommends:  one-half inch of water applied twice weekly for a healthy landscape.



More about Lake Chesden:

Water crisis reveals conflicts, Appomattox River's limitations- Lake Chesden has limited water to supply to Chesterfield.

Lake Chesden is using more copper sulfate to keep ahead of algea blooms that would make the water taste like algae.  These algea blooms come from too much nutrient runoff.



HAL Tours the Chesterfield County Proctors Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant to see improvements that will keep more nitrogen and phosphorus out of the James River and the Chesapeake Bay to help the Bay abd River recover and have more aboundant sea life. Click for Pictures.


Concerns about the Landfill and the History of Regulating it Voiced at the Community Meeting

1. the wells that already go dry;

2. the smoke from the apparently frequent fires on the grounds of the present facility;

3. the questions concerning the source or sources of the financing behind the present project (which is evidently around $10 million at this time);

4. the poor condition of the roads and the already heavy  and dangerous traffic on many of the roads;

5. the dangers of the traffic, any air pollution, etc. to the buses and students at the three or four schools that are in close proximity (Grange Hall Elementary School, Winnapock Elementary School, Cosby High School, and a middle school);

6. the seemingly evasive tactic of withdrawing the coal ash and keeping the ASR (apparently, the general opinion was that, if ASR is permitted then the coal ash will not be far behind);

7. the application for a landfill (industrial or otherwise) in an area designated as agricultural/residential;

8. the fact that there is no automobile shredding facility in Chesterfield thus the ASR would be trucked in from out of the locality and out of state);

9. the fact that some road that was supposed to have been built years ago was only just built;

10. concerns about property values and the fairness of allowing one project to impact many existing property owners;

11. the lack of oversight by the County in terms of enforcing zoning conditions;

12. the dangers of ASR spontaneously combusting and the difficulties in extinguishing such fires;

13. the bifurcated authority for any monitoring of the facility such as any leaking of the leachate;

14. the fact that many of the automobiles that are shredded may still have the batteries and electrical components in them and, after the magnets remove the metal, the ASR will contain the lead and PBCs and other contaminants that are left over;

15. the fact that some states (maybe 10) classify ASR as hazardous waste;

16. and many more.



A Community Meeting was held on March 5th to bring together the residents of the area that want to stay on top of the Landfill proposal to understand what we can all do to prevent it and ask questions to better understand how it will impact us all, regardless of your proximity to the landfill.

We will had several local residents speaking on the issue such as Bill Woodfin, as well as an environmental engineer, Mark Leeper, discuss the impact to our water and community.  There was also be time to ask questions and find out how we could all help.

The Meeting was well attended.  Mark Leeper stated that even though the water on top of the bed rock was moving at 15 feet per year, the area was a Triassic Basin which typically has cracks and the water is flowing as fast as 292 ft per below the bed rock.  Robert Olsen reported that once a Liner is allowed at the landfill, the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors no longer has a say in what is allowed at the landfill.  Another resident reiterated that a fire burned in Virginia for 38 days before helicopters could drop enough dirt to smother in and toxic smoke blew from the fire.

There is also an on-line petition that you can sign to express your concerns over this situation as well as a thorough review of both Fly Ash and Automotive Shredder Residue.  Feel free to share with anyone who would like to make their voice heard on this:




Uranium Mining to is blocked for this year, 2013, but Governor McDonnell is trying to write regulations for next year.

Many of the former Uranium Mining Sites in the West are Superfund sites.  This Eastern U.S.A. has much more rainfall so toxic pollution can spread from the Piedmont to the Coast in Virginia. The current proposed site is upstream of Norfolk, VA so many City Officials are concerned about Uranium Mining. Lifting the Ban on Uranium Mining in all Virginia could allow sites upstream from Richmond and Chesterfield. Please come out and voice your opinion on this important matter at the Town Hall meeting in Richmond.

We don't want Virginia to end up like Chernobyl that can't be cleaned up in a million years. Mining would take place in the open with flowing air and water.

Uranium Mining Symposium in Richmond, VA

Virginia Mining Study based on France

Southern Environmental Law Center Statement

Chesterfield Comprehensive Plan Passes

The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors passed a Comprehensive Plan that did not contain any language from the Upper Swift Creek Plan which had requirements for ensuring clean water.  The plan that passed was more of a recommendation for clean water than a requirement. Protecting Chesterfield's Water supply will depend on how ordinances are written.


Comprehensive Plan

Ask your county leaders if the new plan will protect the Swift Creek reservoir and other water sources from algae blooms caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus. The Swift Creek Reservoir recently reached a phosphorus level of 0.035 mg/L and it becomes unusable after 0.04mg/L.  If the Swift Creek Reservoir becomes unusable demand for water in Chesterfield will be greater than the supply in the next two decades.

HAL hopes to be able to mitigate 100% of stormwater pollution through a combination of LID, tree-save, clear cutting, mass grading, Anionic PAMSee How this was done in Washington State: Click Here

Ask your county supervisor if the new Comprehensive Plan with continue the Swift Creek Plan with measurements of Phosphorus for accountability.



Hopewell has a Stinky Water Problem for Months due to Algae

Hopewell Residents had a 33% increase is their water bill last year and stinky water for months do to an Algae Bloom.

Click here for the Story on NBC

The Swift Creek Reservoir does have the Blue-Green Algae Anabaena which can cause a septic odor like the algae bloom in the 1980's that had everyone buying bottled water. This is usually treated anywhere from zero to a couple of times a year in parts of the Swift Creek Reservoir with Copper Sulfate.

Copper Sulfate is not toxic to humans but can be toxic to fish and other aquatic wildlife. In Minnesota certain types of Blue-Green Algae became resistant to Copper Sulfate after 26 years of use.

The Environmental Protection Agency informs that “Excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from watershed sources are major contributing factors to Harmful Algae Blooms.”

The Swift Creek Reservoir Phosphorus LevelVirginia Department of Environmental Quality recommends that a reservoir be kept at or below a threshold of 0.04 mg of phosphorous per liter to be acceptable as a drinking water reservoir.

The Swift Creek Reservoir was at or under half that level from 1992 through 1996. Since 1997 the reservoir has been at or above 0.03 mg phosphorous per liter for over half of the years though 1999 Two years were at 0.034 mg/L and 0.035 mg/L just 0.005 mg/L and 0.006 mg/L under the maximum threshold.

Chart from 2009 Swift Creek Reservoir and Watershed Report

Hydrilla Invading Swift Creek Reservoir


By David L. Faulkner; Woodlake Resident, Natural Resource Economist with the USDA/NRCS, and WCA Environmental Committee MemberNovember, 2009 Hydrilla Hydrilla is a non-native, invasive submerged aquatic plant that poses a serious threat to water environments such as Swift Creek Reservoir.  The plant is native to Africa and was introduced to the USA via imports to Florida for aquarium owners. Presumably some got thrown out into local waterways and spread from there.  It is now well established in the United States, especially the south where millions are spent every year in management and control efforts.  Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) indicates that hydrilla is increasingly found in Virginia’s waterways and water bodies and currently is resident from the Potomac River in the north to Lake Gaston on the North Carolina border. Hydrilla stems can grow up to 25-30ft. long and it has several advantages over native species of aquatic plants.  It can thrive with less light than native species of water plants, is more efficient in taking up nutrients and can crowd-out the natives due to rapid growth.  It also can reproduce through numerous means, especially through simple vegetative reproduction which means small pieces stuck on the underside of boats and on boat trailers can easily be transported to new waterways and water bodies where it can start growing anew.

It grows into dense mats that interfere with water-based recreation activities such as boating, swimming and fishing.  It also alters fish and wildlife habitat so that some species can no longer survive as well and favors other species including many invertebrates and mosquitoes.  It also provides great nursery habitat for small fish.  It can limit boat movement, clog propellers and rudders, shade out native plants and thereby reduce biodiversity, reduce oxygen levels in the water and degrade water quality by making the bottom stratum of the water column somewhat lifeless.  It also thrives in a wide range of water depth, flow, temperature and water quality conditions…an ideal invasive mess. Hydrilla in water

There are numerous management practices for managing hydrilla ranging from chemical herbicides (some effective and some not so effective) to manual removal (a stop-gap measure as it simply grows back) to biological control through introduction of triploid sterile grass carp (a non-native fish species) that feed upon the vegetation (requires a permit from DGIF, and they can be very effective, but their populations have to be managed also).  Each control method has advantages and disadvantages and are effective to one degree or another, but the bad news is that they all require human resources (knowledge, muscle and active management) which in turn requires financial resources.

What we can do: Hydrilla is in Swift Creek Reservoir (mainly on the Brandermill side) and will now likely be spread to all areas of the lake by the movement of boats.  We really can’t do anything about that.  However, we can help to limit the spread of hydrilla to other streams and lakes by having all boaters examine and clean the underneath sides of their vehicles, boats and trailers when leaving the lake to make sure that hydrilla fragments are removed.

The WCA Board of Directors and Community Manager Julie Walker spoke at length to county officials about the need for immediate action in this matter when they met with them last month.  The county has contracted with a consultant for a study and action plan.  The BOD will continue to monitor and press for swift action on this issue. Stay tuned for more information about how you can help!

Images from

For more information, including plant identification of hydrilla go to:

Church Volunteers Cleaned up Swift Creek Watershed Tributaries Our friends at New Ventures Christian Church and a HAL member volunteered to spend Sunday Morning helping to ensure cleaner drinking water and beautify two branches of Blackman on Otterdale Road and Horsepen Creek at Clover Hill Sports Complex.  Sixteen bags of trash and recyclables were removed from the watershed.  In addition, a tractor tire, car tire and a 32” television were recycled at the Chesterfield Transfer Station. Lucas Johnston of New Ventures Christian Church contacted HAL and made the offer.  Many members of the church including Josh, John, Wayne, Tiffany, Debbie and many other came out to pitch in.  See pictures of the clean up effort and what we found on the HAL Educational Outreach Page. Educational Outreach Page