Category Archives: Waste Management

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

Water in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly: Coal Ash Management Bills

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about water-related bills in the 2018 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; the LIS summaries are edited in some cases for space or clarity.  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

Several bills were introduced in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly on management of ponds that contain coal-combustion residuals, also called coal ash, by power plants in the Commonwealth.  One bill—SB 807—passed.

SB 807 – Electric utilities; coal combustion residuals units; beneficial use projects.  This bill passed the Senate 37-3 on 2/13/18.  A substitute version passed the House 97-0 on 3/6/18, and the Senate then passed the House substitute 37-4 on 3/7/18.  As of 3/27/18, the governor had not acted to sign, amend, or veto the bill.  Sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), the bill would direct the director of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to suspend, delay, or defer the issuance of any permit to provide for the closure of any coal combustion residuals (CCR, or coal ash) unit until July 1, 2019, other than for a permit required for impoundments where coal ash has already been removed and placed in another impoundment on site, is being removed from an impoundment, or is being processed in connection with a recycling or beneficial use project.  The measure also requires the owner or operator of any CCR surface impoundment that is located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to determine (i) the quantity of coal ash that may be suitable for recycling in each CCR surface impoundment located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, (ii) the cost of recycling such coal ash, and (iii) the potential market demand for material recycled from such coal ash; and that, no later than November 15, 2018, the owner or operator of each CCR surface impoundment or other CCR unit to which this act applies shall transmit a business plan—compiling the information related to clauses i., ii., and iii., above—to the governor, certain General Assembly committee chairs, and the directors of the departments of Environmental Quality and Conservation and Recreation.

Following are descriptions and the status of five other coal ash-related bills that were introduced into the 2018 session.

HB 467 – Coal ash: recycling or reuse as preferred disposal method.  The bill failed in the House Commerce and Labor Committee on 2/13/18.  The bill, sponsored by Del. Lee Carter (D-50th), would have prohibited of coal ash except by recycling or beneficial reuse (with certain exceptions).

SB 765 – Coal ash ponds: mandatory testing of drinking water wells in Chesapeake Bay watershed.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.  The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would require the owner or operator of any coal ash pond in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that is closed by capping in place to complete a survey of all drinking water wells within one mile of the pond; require the utility to commission an independent well water test on behalf of the owner of each such well and conduct such a test once per year during each of the five years following the approval of the closure of the coal ash pond, and once every five years thereafter; require the utility to proved alternative water supplies to the owner of any well where tests exceed groundwater quality standards for constituents associated with coal ash; and require the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to consider the results of the tests in its permitting, monitoring, or enforcement proceedings.

SB 767 – Coal ash ponds: delay of closure permit issuance for certain flaws in closure plans.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.   The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would authorize the director of the DEQ to delay the issuance of a permit for the closure of a coal ash pond in the Chesapeake Bay watershed if the DEQ determines that the closure plan shows any insufficiency or flaw, including a failure to account for the possibility of leakage.

SB 768 – Electric utilities: limits on recovery of costs associated with closure in place of coal ash facilities.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.   The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would direct that in State Corporation Commission (SCC) reviews of investor-owned electric utilities, any costs incurred by the utility that are associated with closure in place of a coal ash landfill or surface impoundment are to be considered “unreasonable and not prudent”; and would direct that, for purposes of any rate adjustment clause for recovery of environmental costs, costs associated with closure in place of such a landfill or impoundment are not necessary to comply with any environmental law or regulation.

SB 808 – Electric utilities; Transitional Rate Period, coal combustion residuals landfills.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.   The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would change the duration of the Commonwealth’s current Transitional Rate Period (Period) for any Phase II Electric Utility, and provide that during the first biennial review after the Period, the State Corporation Commission shall determine whether the utility would have owed customers a refund during any test period in the Transitional Rate Period, and, if so, the utility may elect to expense up to 80 percent of costs associated with closure by removal of coal combustion residuals landfill or surface impoundments against its overearnings.  The measure would require the owner or operator of any coal combustion residuals unit to submit reports on the costs associated with removal of coal combustion residuals landfill or surface impounds.

News Media Items Related to This Legislation

House panel next to consider Senate coal ash legislation, Virginia Business, 2/20/18.

Bill delays closing coal ash ponds, Chesterfield Observer, 2/14/18.

Coal ash dispute headed for more study under bill that clears Senate committee, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/7/18.  Finding a coal ash fix: Legislators propose different options for Dominion waste, Inside NoVa, 1/20/18.

State lawmakers face continuing Bay debates in 2018, Bay Journal, 1/3/18.

Biosolids Study by Virginia’s JLARC Released October 10, 2017

On October 20, 2017, Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released “Land Application of Biosolids and Industrial Residuals,” a 101-page report called for by the 2016 Virginia General Assembly (HJ 120, online at  The full report, a summary, and the list of recommendations are available online at  Following is the overview of the study provided by JLARC at that Web site.


In 2016, the General Assembly directed JLARC to study land application of biosolids and industrial residuals in Virginia. The mandate specifically called for staff to analyze the scientific research literature on potential effects on human health and the environment.


Biosolids and industrial residuals are nutrient-rich materials left over at the end of sewage treatment or a manufacturing process. If they meet regulatory standards, these materials are can be applied to farm and forest land as agricultural fertilizers. Biosolids and industrial residuals contain pathogens and chemicals that may pose risks to human health and the environment. To minimize these risks, they are subject to federal and state regulations.


Regulations generally protect human health and water quality.

Land application of biosolids and industrial residuals poses some risk to human health and water quality, but the risk is low under current state regulations. This conclusion is based on the best available scientific evidence, but more research could reduce uncertainty.

Even though risk is low, risk is sometimes slightly elevated during land application for nearby residents, who may inhale aerosolized contaminants. During land application, small particles of material become airborne. This material can be inhaled, potentially causing gastrointestinal illness or the common cold.

The state’s regulatory requirements may not adequately mitigate this risk for nearby residents, but only under conditions that are optimal for exposure: when Class B biosolids (which contain pathogens) are applied and nearby residents are downwind and outside for an extended period during application. These conditions present greater risk at a small number of sites that receive far more land applications than other sites.

Regulatory compliance programs are generally effective.

The Departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture and Consumer Services (DEQ and VDACS) each operate compliance programs that are generally effective. Both agencies’ processes ensure regulatory compliance. DEQ’s process to review and approve land application permit requests is reasonable and appropriately involves the public. VDACS’s process to initially certify products as safe and beneficial is also reasonable.

DEQ’s process to inspect land application sites and correct violations is effective. Although the agency now inspects a lower percentage of land applications than in prior years, it still was able to inspect 31 percent of application sites in 2016.

VDACS has an annual process for registering biosolids and industrial residuals, but its ongoing product verification process is not sufficient in all cases. VDACS does not verify, after its initial certification, that products continue to have acceptably low levels of potentially harmful chemicals.

Dominion Energy’s Virginia Coal Ash Storage Ponds Options Evaluated in Report Released Dec. 1, 2017; Report was Mandated by SB 1398 in 2017 Virginia General Assembly

On December 1, 2017, Dominion Energy released an 846-page report on options for the company to address its coal combustion by-products, also called coal ash, stored in ponds at four coal-fired power plants in Virginia.  The report was mandated by Senate Bill 1398 in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly (online at, which stated that “every owner or operator of a coal combustion residuals (CCR) surface impoundment, as that term is defined at 40 C.F.R. § 257.53, that is located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed shall conduct an assessment of each such CCR surface impoundment (CCR unit) regarding the closure of any such unit.”

The report is available online at is available online at

According to the report’s Executive Summary, SB 1398 called for the company to do the following:
*evaluate closure by removal with recycling or reuse (beneficial use) of the CCR material;
*evaluate closure by removal with placement of CCR material in a permitted landfill;
*evaluate closure-in-place addressing long-term safety, structural, and extreme weather event resiliency; and
*describe groundwater and surface water quality surrounding each ash pond and evaluate corrective measures if needed.

The report was done for Dominion by the international firm AECOM (headquartered in Los Angeles; online at

Following are hyperlinked news media articles on the release of the report:
Report lays out potential Virginia coal ash options, Associated Press, as published by Charlottesville Daily Progress, 12/1/17.
Dominion’s long-awaited coal ash assessment is in, but what the utility will do with it remains unclear, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/1/17.
State-mandated report details new options for Dominion Energy’s toxic coal ash, Prince William Times, 12/2/17.
Dominion’s review of coal ash “alternatives” still favors on-site storage, Bay Journal, 12/6/17.

For more details on coal ash management in Virginia, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

Virginia Solid Waste Report for 2016 Data Issued on June 20, 2017, by Va. DEQ

On June 20, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its 20th 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 2016 at 202 permitted facilities.

The total amount of solid waste received at Virginia facilities during 2016 was about 22.0 million tons, an increase of about 1.3 million tons over 2014’s total.  About 6.1 million tons originated from outside of Virginia, an increase of about 700,000 tons over 2015’s total, due to an increase in out-of-state industrial waste.  Municipal solid waste comprised about 12.8 million tons (about 58 percent) of Virginia’s total waste in 2016; construction/demolition debris comprised about 4.3 million tons; industrial waste about 2.0 million tons; and the rest was from several other kinds of waste (regulated medical waste, vegetative waste, incineration ash, sludge, tires, white goods, friable asbestos, petroleum contaminated soil, and other).

Out-of-state waste came primarily from Maryland (about 39.8% of all out-of-state waste), Washington, D.C. (about 19.8%), North Carolina (about 19.7%), New York (about 16.4%), and New Jersey (about 3.1%).

Of the 2016 total waste, about 13.3 million tons were disposed of in landfills; about 2.0 million tons were incinerated on-site; about 4.5 million tons were sent off-site for treatment, storage, or disposal; about 1.2 million tons were recycled on-site; about 848,000 tons were sent off-site to be recycled; and the rest was managed by mulching, composting, on-site storage, or other means.

The report for 2016 data (32 pages) and reports for previous years are available at  See also Virginia issues solid waste report for 2016, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality news release, 6/20/17.

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

Virginia Campground Regulations Undergoing Periodic Review in 2016-17; Public Hearing Held June 20, 2017, in Richmond

In summer 2017, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Board of Health are considering revisions to the Commonwealth’s regulations governing campgrounds, including regulations for water supplies, wastewater facilities, solid-waste disposal, swimming facilities, pest control, and other environmental health aspects.  A public hearing on the proposed regulations was held June 20, 2017, at the Perimeter Center, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond; the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice for that meeting is online at

The proposed regulatory changes are part of a periodic review begun in 2016.  According to the VDH “Action Summary” (online at, “The intent of this regulatory action is to amend the regulations, to address current camping practices, update terminology, and remove or replace outdated requirements.”  The regulations are at Section 12 VAC 5‑450 in the Virginia Administrative Code.  The proposed changes were published in the Virginia Register of Regulations on May 29, 2017.  The public comment period ended July 28, 2017.  More information on this regulatory process is available online at

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 category grades: bridges = C; dams = C; drinking water = C; 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.

Other sources of information on infrastructure needs in Virginia and elsewhere:

National Bridge Inventory Database, online at

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “CorpsMap—National Inventory of Dams, online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Clean Watesheds Needs Survey 2012 Report to Congress,” available online at  According to this Web site, this report is an “assessment of capital investment needed nationwide for publicly-owned wastewater collection and treatment facilities to meet the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (Fifth Report to Congress,” EPA 816-R-013-006, April 2013), available online at

Virginia Department of Transportation, “VTrans 2025: Virginia’s Statewide Multimodal Long-range Transportation Plan” (November 17, 2004): available online (as PDF) at

Virginia General Assembly joint subcommittee reports on school construction:
1) “Report on the Level of Assistance to Localities Necessary for Developing Adequate K-12 Schools Infrastructure,” House Document 5 for 2005 (published February 2005): available online at

2) “K-12 School Infrastructure,” House Document 2 for2006 (published November 2005); available online at

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