Category Archives: Waste Management

Items related to hazardous materials, impacts on groundwater, use of rivers for transport, solid-waste landfills, illegal dumps, etc.

Virginia Toxics Release Inventory Report for 2015 Data Released March 30, 2017, by Va. DEQ

On March 30, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced publication of the latest annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), covering data reported for 2015.  The report for 2015 data, along with reports for data years back to 2007, is available online at

According to the 2015 report’s Executive Summary, this year’s report lists types and amounts of chemicals released and reported by 439 industrial operations in the Commonwealth having 10 or more employees and reaching specific minimum amounts of toxic chemicals used.  (See p. 2 in the report’s Introduction for the list of criteria determining which operations must report.)  Virginia industries reported on 148 chemical and chemical categories, out of over 650 chemicals and chemical categories currently on the TRI list of reportable substances.

Virginia industries reported 858.60 million pounds of chemicals managed released to the environment, transferred off-site, or managed on-site in 2015, a 6.3-percent increase from the previous year’s 916.6 million pounds.  This included 32.49 million pounds of chemicals released on-site to the air, water and land (7.7-percent decrease from 2014 data); 65.46 million pounds transferred off-site for treatment, recycling, energy recovery or disposal (2.2-percent decrease from 2014); and 760.65 million pounds managed on-site by treatment, recycling, or energy recovery (6.6-percent increase from 2014).  The total amount of TRI chemicals released to water increased by 371,029 pounds (3.3 percent) over 2014, while the total amount released to air or land decreased by 2.36 million pounds (11.6 percent).

Released amounts of persistent bioaccumulative toxics (chemicals that remain in the environment for a long time, are not easily destroyed, and can build up in body tissue)—were 223,108 pounds released on site (compared to 640,801 pounds in 2014); 804,856 pounds transferred off-site from reporting Virginia facilities for treatment, recycling, energy recovery, or disposal (compared to 819,099 pounds in 2014); and 247,934 pounds managed on-site by treatment, recycling, or energy recovery (compared to 200,232 pounds in 2014).

The report’s Executive Summary states the following about how to interpret the release information: “The Virginia TRI Report provides the public with information concerning specified toxic chemicals and chemical compounds which are manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at Virginia facilities.  Responsible use of the information can help the public and industry identify potential concerns and develop effective strategies for reducing toxic chemical usage and release.  The TRI data do not, however, represent a measure of the public’s exposure to chemicals, nor do they assess risk.  Most of the releases are regulated and permitted under other state and federal programs that are designed to protect human health and the environment.  Because of differences in report-generation schedules and receipt of reports, the information in the Virginia TRI Report will not precisely match the information in the national Toxics Release Inventory—Public Data Release, located at, as published by [the U.S.] EPA.”

Water Central News Grouper items on previous years’ TRI reports are available online at

Additional source: Virginia issues report on chemical releases for 2015, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 3/30/17.

Related news media item:
Tri-Cities ranks high for toxic emissions, Petersburg Progress-Index, 3/30/17.


Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Coal Ash Management Bills – Updated 4/27/17

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 160 water-related bills in the 2017 General Assembly, please visit the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s “Virginia Water Legislation” page, online at  Each post includes a summary of the bill(s), their legislative status (in committee, passed, failed, etc.), and a list of hyperlinked headlines for news media items on the bill(s).  Information on the bills’ provisions and status is taken from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

SB 1398, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th District) of Mt. Vernon, passed the Senate on Feb. 7.  As passed by the Senate, the bill would prohibit the DEQ director from issuing a draft permit for the closure of a coal combustion residuals unit (CCR unit) located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (that is, at facilities of Dominion Virginia Power) until the director has reviewed an assessment of closure options prepared by the owner or operator of the CCR unit.  Prior to receiving a permit, the permit-seeker would have to identify water pollution and address corrective measures to resolve it, evaluate the clean closure of the CCR unit by recycling the ash for use in cement or moving it to a landfill, and demonstrate the long-term safety of the CCR unit and its ability to keep ash out of wetlands and other sensitive areas.  A substitute version passed by the House on Feb. 17 removed the requirement that the information be provided and reviewed by the director before the director may issue a draft permit for closure of a CCR unit.  The Senate agreed to the House version on Feb. 21.  On March 22, Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed an amendment that would place a moratorium on any Dominion coal-ash closures until 2018, when the information required by SB 1398 will have been provided.  In early April, Dominion announced that it would not oppose the delay in closure permitting called for in the governor’s amendment.  The amendment was approved by the General Assembly in its April 5 reconvened session.

SB 1399, also sponsored by Sen. Surovell, was stricken from the docket of the Senate  Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee at the request of Sen. Surovell.  The bill would have directed the DEQ to require the closure of surface impoundments of coal combustion by-products, commonly called coal ash ponds, by July 1, 2021.  The bill would have applied to impoundments that managed such by-products from the generation of electricity by an electric utility or independent power producer prior to December 22, 2016, including those impoundments that, prior to December 22, 2016, have been closed by capping in place or have received DEQ approval for closure by capping in place.  The bill would also have required that the coal combustion by-products be removed for disposal in a permitted landfill meeting federal criteria and that the impoundment site be reclaimed in a manner consistent with federal mine reclamation standards for the closure to be deemed complete.  The bill would have allowed the electric utility to recover the costs of closure from customers.

SB1383, also sponsored by Sen. Surovell, was stricken from the docket of the Senate ACNR Committee at the request of Sen. Surovell.  The bill would have required electric utilities to recycle as much of their stored coal ash as is imported into the Commonwealth each year, on a pro rata basis.

Related News Media Items on this Legislation

GOP ushers through coal ash legislation, Chesterfield Observer, 4/12/17.

Delaying closure: Virginia’s controversial coal ash ponds, WTOP Radio-Washington, 4/15/17.

New review of coal ash at Dominion Power’s Chesapeake site may leave out most of the ash, Virginian-Pilot, 4/6/17.

Coal Ash Ponds: Power companies to face new barrier in closing Virginia sites, Inside Nova, 4/6/17.

In special session, Virginia lawmakers put the brakes on Dominion’s coal-ash plans, Prince William Times, 4/6/17.

Dominion to assess coal ash sites regardless of bill’s fate, Associated Press, as published by WJLA TV-Washington, 4/5/17.

Dominion won’t oppose pause in coal-ash permitting, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/4/17.

If amended bill passes, coal ash closure process at Possum Point could slow, Potomac Local, 3/27/17.

Virginia governor proposes moratorium on coal ash permits, Bay Journal, 3/22/17.

McAuliffe seeks coal ash pond alternatives with permit moratorium, Inside NOVA, 3/22/17.

McAuliffe moves to place yearlong moratorium on coal-ash pond closure permits, Prince William Times, 3/22/17.

Governor requests pause in coal-ash permitting, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/22/17.

Sen. Chase asks governor for help with coal ash, Chesterfield Observer, 3/1/17.

Coal ash bill goes to governor without important moratorium provision, Virginian-Pilot, 2/21/17.

Coal Ash Bill Results In General Assembly Compromise: Bill Requires More Information Before Slurry Disposal, The Flat Hat (College of William and Mary), 2/21/17.

Virginia environmentalists disappointed by “watered down” coal ash bill, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 2/22/17.

Environmentalists disappointed by House’s coal ash bill, WTVR TV-Richmond, 2/17/17.

Virginia House of Delegates committee defangs coal ash bill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/15/17.

Coal ash bill clears House subcommittee, though not unscathed, Richmond Times-Dispatch, as published by Roanoke Times, 2/14/17.

Coal ash bill clears Senate, but faces challenges in the state House, Fauquier Times, 2/13/17.

Surovell bill to delay Dominion’s coal-ash plans moves to the state Senate, Prince William Times, 2/3/17.

Bill that would require more information on coal-ash closure plans clears Va. Senate committee, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/2/17.

Is Recycling a Practical Solution for Coal Ash?, Bacon’s Rebellion, 2/2/17.

Coal ash revaluation, recycling bill that could affect Chesapeake energy site passes Senate panel, Virginian-Pilot, 2/3/17.

Virginia’s and the Nation’s Infrastructure Gets Graded by the American Society of Civil Engineers – 2017 Edition

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes a “report card” on the state of engineered infrastructure in the United States.  The report covers infrastructure in aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, school facilities, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.  The latest national report (as of March 13, 2017) gave a grade of D+, the same as the grade in 2013.  The report estimated the cost of making necessary infrastructure improvements at $4.59 trillion, compared to the 2013 estimate of $3.6 trillion.  The full national report for 2017 is available online at  A chart of results from previous reports–back to 1998–is available online at

According to the “What Makes a Grade” section  of the Report Card Web site, grades were assigned based on capacity to meet current and future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.  The grades are described as follows: A = exceptional; B = good; C = mediocre; D = poor; F = failing.

The 2017 national report also includes reports for each state.  As of 3/13/17, the Virginia assessment was a 2015 report compiled by the Virginia Section of the ASCE (ASCE-Va.).  The Virginia report is available at  The Virginia report give the Commonwealth an overall grade of C- (compared to a D+ in 2009), and the following grades in each category: aviation = no grade; bridges = C; dams = C; drinking water = C; energy = no grade; parks = C+; rail and transit = C-; roads = D; school facilities = C-; solid waste = B-; stormwater = C-; and wastewater = D+.
News item related to Virginia report in 2015: Virginia infrastructure earns grade of C-, Capital News Service, 1/21/15.

Infrastructure cartoon

Cartoon that accompanied a February 2010 Virginia Water Central newsletter article on the 2009 infrastructure report by the American Society of Civil Engineers-Virginia Section.  Illustration by George Wills, Blacksburg, Va. (

Hurricane Creek Coal-waste “Gob” Pile in Russell County, Va., Nearing Clean-up as of August 2016

On August 30, 2016, Dominion Virginia Power reported the approaching finish of a two-year project to clean up a 12-acre, 1-million-ton pile of coal waste—known as a “gob” pile, for “garbage of bituminous”—beside Dumps Creek (a Clinch River tributary) near the Russell County, Va., town of Carbo.  Known as the Hurricane Creek gob pile, the site was used for disposal of gob—coal containing too much rock or dirt to be usable—from a Clinchfield Coal Company mine first opened in 1907.  In announcing the start of the clean-up in 2014, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy called the site the “single worst mine-related impact to water quality in the Clinch River.”  According to Dominion, clean-up of the site became economically feasible after Dominion’s Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center opened in St. Paul, Va. (Wise County), because the facility was able to use about 500,000 tons of the waste for generating electricity.  After removal of the coal waste, the site is to be planted with grass and hardwood trees.  The clean-up project has been managed by Gobco, LLC, of Abingdon, Va.

Burning Waste Coal to Restore the Land, Bacon’s Rebellion, 8/30/16.
Dominion Powers Removal of Largest Pollution Source of Clinch River, Dominion Virginia Power News Release, 8/30/16.
Worst Mine Related Impact to Clinch to be Removed in Russell County, Virginia; Hurricane Fork Gob Pile To Be Removed And Burned At Nearby Power Plant, Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy News Release, 12/7/14.

An Ambitious Effort to Clean the Oceans of Plastic

Boyan Slat of the Netherlands is leading a project called “The Ocean Cleanup,” aiming to employ passive barriers to collect plastic moved by the world’s ocean currents.  An estimated nine million tons of plastic reach the oceans annually.  Mr. Slat’s ambitious project is described in a PBS NewsHour segment, “Can this project clean up millions of tons of ocean plastic?” (8 min./29 sec) aired on August 14, 2016, and available online at  The segment also gives background information on the problem of plastics in the oceans and how currents move and concentrate the debris into patches, such as the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (or “Pacific trash vortex”) in the North Pacific Ocean.

For more information on ocean debris, see the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, “Ocean Trash Plaguing Our Sea,” online at; or the National Geographic Society, “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” online at

Virginia Solid Waste Report for 2015 Data Issued on June 23, 2016, by Va. DEQ

On June 23, 2016, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its 19th annual report on solid waste management in Virginia, covering municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, vegetative and yard waste, and other types of waste collected in 2015 at 206 permitted facilities.

The total amount of solid waste received at Virginia facilities during 2015 was about 20.7 million tons, an increase of about 500,000 tons over 2014’s total.

About 5.4 million tons originated from outside of Virginia, an increase of about 100,000 tons over 2014’s total.

Municipal solid waste comprised about 12.7 million tons (about 61 percent) of Virginia’s total waste in 2015; construction/demolition debris comprised about 3.9 million tons; industrial waste about 1.3 million tons; and the rest was from several other kinds of waste.

Out-of-state waste came primarily from Maryland (about 1.26 million tons), New York (about 1.22 million tons), Washington, D.C. (about 827,000 tons), North Carolina (about 155,000 tons), and New Jersey (about 60,000 tons).

Of the 2015 total waste, about 12.7 million tons were disposed of in landfills; about 2.0 million tons were incinerated; about 766,000 tons were sent off-site to be recycled; about 677,000 tons were recycled on-site; and the rest was managed by mulching, composting, or other means.

The report for 2015 data (32 pages) and reports for previous years are available at  See also Virginia issues solid waste report for 2015, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality news release, 6/23/16.

For News Grouper posts on previous years’ solid-waste reports, please see this link:

Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay Examined in April 2016 Report from Bay Program’s Scientific and Technial Advisory Committee

On April 18, 2016, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee published “Technical Review of Microbeads/Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay.”  The 27-page report (STAC Publication 16-002) is available online at

Following is an excerpt from the report’s Executive Summary:
“Recent estimates indicate that there are trillions of pieces of plastic floating at or near the surface of the world’s oceans, and that the majority of this pollution is microplastic (less than 5 mm in size).  Like larger items of plastic debris, microplastic has been reported in nearly all aquatic habitats, from the surface to the depths of every major open ocean and in freshwater lakes and rivers.  The small size of microplastic makes it bioavailable to a wide range of species of aquatic animals, across nearly all sizes and trophic levels.  Recently, one source of microplastic debris has received much attention in the media and from policy makers: synthetic plastic microbeads.  [See, for example, House Bill 1697 in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly, “Synthetic plastic microbeads; prohibition against manufacture or sale of certain products, penalty.”]

“This review panel was originally tasked to write a report describing the scientific evidence regarding plastic microbeads as it relates to microplastic contamination in general and in the Chesapeake Bay in particular.  In the interim, federal legislation to ban microbeads, the Microbead-Free Waters Act, was signed by President Obama on December 28, 2015.  [Information on that legislation is available online at]  While laudable in its intent, the Act leaves much to be desired for microplastic mitigation. The Microbead-Free Waters Act (i) does not mitigate all sources of microbeads to aquatic habitats (i.e., only applies to rinse-off personal care products), and (ii) is restrictive when it comes to potential innovative technological solutions (i.e., may prevent use of any new types of plastic microbeads in some applications, even if they are environmentally benign).  Accordingly, future legislation and regulation, whether concerning microbeads or other sources of microplastics, should more carefully address these issues.

“Due to the original tasking, this report emphasizes microbeads.  However, because microbeads are not the only source of microplastic contaminating local habitats, this report’s scope has been broadened to include information regarding microplastic in general.”

For a news media account of the report and the issue of microplastics, please see Microplastic pollution in the Bay poses risks, report finds, Bay Journal, 4/18/16.