Dominion prepares first treated coal ash wastewater release into James River

Published: Apr. 26, 2016 at 9:07 PM EDT|Updated: May. 6, 2016 at 9:17 PM EDT
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FLUVANNA, VA (WWBT) - Dominion is preparing to release the first of what will be hundreds of loads of treated coal ash wastewater into the James River.

The company says over the next two years, it will be treating and testing the equivalent of 240 Olympic-size swimming pools.

After years of planning and preparation, treated water from the Bremo Power Station is set to be released into the James River Wednesday. Dominion says the treated water has been repeatedly tested and is safe for the river and everyone who uses it.

It may just look like a group of trailers, tanks and piping, but it's actually an intricate system which is helping Dominion end its coal operations. Dominion and other power companies have been given the federal mandate to transition to natural gas.

To do that, the company has to close the Coal Ash Ponds at all of its power stations. Bremo is first on the list.

Tuesday, the company gave NBC12 unprecedented access, where work is underway to drain and clean the North Pond.

"The water gets brought in and goes into this first tank," explained Dominion's environmental manager Jason Williams.

Each grouping of machines is part of the $35 million treatment process that strips metals from coal ash water. Those metals and the ash will be removed, but the water goes on, in a what Dominion calls a protective rate.

"The average flow into the James is about 5.5. million gallons per minute, and our maximal release would be 1500 gallons per minute," said Williams.

To the naked eye, the water is pristine. Opponents of this process hope testing supports that and say seeing is believing.

"We're putting in extra safety measures so the river is protected," said Williams. "We're putting in extra testing of the water by a third part to ensure that when the water is released, it's protective of James."

Dominion says every batch will be tested before it's released. Those results will be posted weekly on the company's website.

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