The Dixie Pig was my grandmother's favorite restaurant on U.S. 1 formerly located across from Beacon Mall where a Rite Aid now stands.

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  • Report on Coal Ash Hearing #2

    Report on Coal Ash Hearing #2

    Nate Benforado with SELC Addressing Committee
    Spent the day today in Richmond for the second meeting of the Joint House/Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting on resolving Virginia's coal ash situation.

    Dominion Briefing
    Dominion was first to the podium.  They briefed the committee on a recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that reversed a Richmond federal judge who held that their Chesapeake Coal Ash landfill was violating the Clean Water Act.  The appellate court held that the trial judge was wrong and that although the landfill was leaking toxic metals, it was not leaking it in a way that violated the Act.

    Next, Dominion talked about the status of their request for proposals on coal ash recycling.
    • 86 people from 51 firms attended Dominion's initial information session
    • 26 suppliers indicated interest in bidding
    • They held tours at four sites where 57 people from 23 firms attended
    • They received 115 questions and issued 12 clarifications for the bid process
    • They ultimately received 12 bids with 2,100 pages of information
    • They are currently asking questions of the bidders and then expect to have a report to the legislature by November 15, 2018
    Dominion also noted that they are exploring have multiple solutions are multiple sites and not unitary solutions at each site.

    Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC)
    Next up, Nate Benforado, who is an attorney with the SELC spoke  He briefed the subcommittee on the state of coal ash ponds, Southeast Regional Progress, Cap in Place, and the Excavation with Reycling issues.

    Chesterfield County Coal Ash Ponds & Dutch Gap Park
    There are 28 millions total tons. From their perspective, all of the ponds are unlined.  Chesterfield is the biggest with 14.9 tons and all have documented pollution.  They future explained how Dominion used a former oxbow of the James River to store ash in the old river.  

    Next, the explained the Chesapeake site and showed the coal ash peninsula constructed in the Elizabeth River from the 1950's until the 1980's - much of it below sea level.  They also noted that the site is leaking Arsenic into the Elizabeth River from all sides

    Possum Point Coal Ash Ponds
    They discussed Possum Point in the 36th District.  They explained how Ponds A-C near Quantico Creek were dug up and the ash moved into Pond D.  They also noted that Pond E has been moved into Pond D.

    Bremo Bluffs has six million tons of coal ash on the bank of the James River in dammed up stream valleys.  They ponds are not lined.

    Every coal ash pond in the Atlantic Coastal region is being excavated - except in Virginia.  South Carolina, North Carolina, George are all excavating about 110 million tons of coal ash.  

    Next, they talked about Hurricane Florence.  They discussed the Sutton Plant in North Carolina where a dam failure caused the ash to be released when the river overflowed the protective barriers in the Cape Fear River.  They also discussed coal ash pond flooding that occurred at the H.F. Lee Plant during Hurricane Matthew.  

    South Carolina is digging up every single coal ash pond.  Hurricane Florence was not a risk to them because many of their ponds were excavated before the flood waters hit.  

    They also noted that Chesapeake and Chesterfield are at risk to river flooding and that Possum Point and Bremo Bluffs are vulnerable to dam failure.  They also noted that they ponds are emitting arsenic, hexavalent chromium, lead and radium on sunny days.

    They also discussed the Chisam Creek site in York County which is a Super Fund site.  They also noted that this site was capped 30 years ago and that capping the site has not solved the problem there.

    They noted that at other sites, excavation reduced groundwater heavy metal discharges by 90%.  They also explained the commercial success that South Carolina utilities have seen.  They also have noted that in South Carolina their costs have been 3x to 8x lower per ton than Dominion's prediction from my 2017 legislation.

    They finally pointed out all of the positive economic benefits that can come from recycling solutions.  Increase property values, local tax revenue, more jobs, manufacturing jobs, and that it will improve the community reputation with the reputational effects from ongoing pollution.

    SEFA Group
    Hank Keiper with the SEFA Group spoke about his company's coal ash recycling efforts.  They have a process where they take coal ash, burn off the carbon and then sell it to concrete manufacturers.  They have three plants - two in South Carolina, one in Maryland, and three under construction in North Carolina.  They have recycled 20 million cubic yards so far

    They pointed out that the ancient Romans used volcanic ash to make concrete and that coal ash has nearly identical properties.  They noted that the only nuclear power plant under construction in the United States right now is using coal ash and that nearly all half of concrete uses in Virginia could use coal ash.

    They also noted that the bridge piers on the I-895 Pocahontas Parkway Bridge was made from coal ash.  VDOT required half of the powder to be coal ash.  Coal ash causes a reaction in concrete which encapsulates and hardens into concrete which locks in the heavy metals in a chemical matrix which prevents leaching.  

    The recycling process is called beneficiation and they used a technology called Staged Turbulent Air Reactor or STAR to recycle the ash.  The process also creates heat that can be recycled to make energy.  There is also no waste stream from their product.  

    They noted that different market pressures has reduced the usage of coal in America which has resulted in a shortage of coal ash.  To make up the difference, suppliers have been importing ash from outside of the U.S.

    There are some challenges to recycling ash - if the ash was not desulfered it needs treatment.  They also need to get rid of water, make a consistent uniform product and remove other detrius (trash) from the ash.

    They also provided an overview of their first recycling site was in Georgetown, SC.  

    SEFA summarized their market studies in Virginia.  They think Central VA has a marked of about 600,000 tons per year.  If you extend it up to Philadelphia there could be a potential market for up to 1 million tons per year for Virginia fly ash.

    Delegate Marshall noted that he used coal ash in his former concrete business.  He also noted that they amount of coal ash significantly exceeds the amount of coal ash that is needed for manufacturing and their solution is not a complete solution.

    Kunigal Shivakumar and Wade Brown - North Carolina A&T
    Next, Dr. Kunigal Shivakumr and Dr. Wade Brown gave a presentation on research they have been doing on coal ash beneficiation.  They discussed a composite material that they have created using coal ash.  Their objective was to develop products to be manufactured out of coal ash besides concrete.

    They then presented various products they have manufactured from coal ash including wall boards, chair rails, moldings, floor boards, etc.  They pointed out that the cost per pound is one-third of the cost of PVC and about one-half the cost of HDPE.  

    They are currently looking for a funding partner to sell their products.  Here is an article summarizing their research.

    Public Comment
    A Virginia concrete manufacturer spoke.  He said he used fly ash in his process and could get ash from three suppliers and that today that has dwindled.  He talked about how they wanted to use fly ash in a big project at Newport News Shipyard, but could not guaranty enough and had to use other products.

    Two citizens from Poquoson in York County spoke about the situation as Chisam Creek.  They talked about berm failures at their site.  They also requested that the Chisam Creek site be also considered as part of any solution, and they urged prompt action especially in light of what hurricanes can do.  

    Glen Besa with the Sierra Club spoke.  He also urged that the General Assembly also talk to scientists and not just lobbyists.  

    Philip Musegaas spoke from the Potomac Riverkeeper Alliance.  He highlighted the new D.C. Circuit Appellate decision that invalidated a series of Obama-era EPA rules about coal ash because they were not protective enough of the environment. 

    Next, Dean Naujoks spoke out about the Duke Energy situation which led to major coal ash legislation there.  He also reiterated that supply of coal ash is declining while the need for coal ash is rising.  

    Patty Marrow spoke last.  Ms. Marrow lives on Possum Point and on property with contaminated groundwater wells.  

    Next Steps
    Dominion's report is due on November 15, 2018 and there will be a hearing after that.

  • Hurricane Florence Approaching East Coast (UPDATES BELOW)

    Hurricane Florence Approaching East Coast (UPDATES BELOW)

    A powerful hurricane is on track to hit the east coast this weekend bringing heavy rain to our region.

    Monitor your local news sources for the latest weather conditions, and check the  National Weather Service  for up-to-date information.
    Here are couple important tips, websites and numbers to keep you safe:

    From the Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management:

    With Virginia under a state of emergency, and forecasts showing Florence zeroing in on the Mid-Atlantic, the time for all Virginians to prepare is now.

    While it is too soon to know the exact track that Hurricane Florence will take, the majority of forecast models are indicating significant potential impacts to Virginia in the form of coastal storm surge, catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages.

    Virginia emergency managers and first responders are already mobilizing to prepare for the storm. Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency late Saturday in order to mobilize personnel and resources for storm impacts, and to speed the response to those communities that are damaged by the storm. This includes resources from VDEM, the Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia National Guard and others.

    All Virginians should expect potential impacts and life-threatening conditions from this storm. Now is the time to prepare—Make a Kit, Get and Plan, and Stay Informed. To learn more, visit

    It’s Not the Winds, It’s the Water

    The largest threat to life from hurricanes is not the high winds. Flooding is the deadliest result of these storms.

    Current forecast models indicate that Florence could strike the Carolinas and enter Central Virginia, possibly stalling and dropping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas. This will lead to widespread and dangerous flooding, inundation of roads and damaged infrastructure. Potential widespread power outages are also expected.

    Citizens should prepare for rising waters, flash flooding, and remember to never drive across flooded roadways. Most injuries and deaths occur when motorists try to cross flooded roads. Roads and bridges can be damaged or completely washed away beneath flood waters, and a few inches of water can sweep vehicles downstream. Remember, turn around, don’t drown.

    From Dominion's Hurricane Preparedness Guide

    • Update the phone number on your Dominion Energy account. Login into Manage Account or call 866-366-4357 to change your phone number. In the event of an outage, this will help you report your outage.
    • Review evacuation zones. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has an evacuation zone look up tool to assist you in preparing for hurricanes.
    • If a family member uses medical equipment, review emergency plans to relocate if necessary.
    • If you own a generator, familiarize yourself with connecting and operating it before a storm arrives.
    • Make sure your cars have a full tank of gas and remember to fill extra gas cans for generators.
    • Tie down loose items outside or properly store them to prevent extra damage.
    Disaster kit items
      The National Weather Service recommends creating a basic disaster kit. Store the items in airtight plastic bags and put the entire kit in easy-to-carry containers (plastic bins, duffel bag). A basic kit could include the following items:
      • Water: one gallon per person per day (at least a 3 day supply)
      • Non-perishable food: canned meats and vegetables, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal, food for infants.
      • Battery-powered radio
      • Flash light
      • First Aid kit
      • Extra batteries
      • Manual can opener
      • Local maps
      • Cell phone chargers and extra battery packs
      Personal emergency items
        Along with the essential items, remember to pack your disaster kit for your individual needs.
        • Prescription and non-prescription medications.
        • Infant food, bottles, wipes, diapers, etc.
        • Food and water for your pet
        • Cash
        • Important family documents (insurance policies, IDs, bank records)
        • Blankets for each person
        • Change of clothes
        • Matches in water-proof container
        • Down time activities (books, games, puzzles).
          If you have lost power
            During a storm, if you have lost power, always report your outage. Along with reporting your outage:
            • Turn off major appliances such as air conditioners, water heaters and stoves.
            • Unplug TVs, stereos, microwaves and computers to prevent damage during possible overloads.
            • Leave a lamp or light on so you’ll know when power is restored.
            • Stay away from any downed lines. Always assume the lines are energized and make sure to report them by calling 866-366-4357. Refer to our Outage FAQs for answers to other common questions.
            Additionally, please use the link and the numbers provided below to stay up-to-date on current conditions or to report any power outages:

            Dominion Resources Power Outage Line

            Dominion Resources Storm Center Outage and
            Restoration Updates

            Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative 
            Washington Gas
            Columbia Gas

            Verizon Wireless

            Cox Communications

            Also, if you have any problems, you can always contact my office at 571.249.4484.  Stay safe!