Dan Marrow and his wife Patty raised their children and hoped to retire in their home near the Possum Point power station until they learned that their water had been contaminated by the toxic components found in coal ash. They have spent more than $40,000 to have city water installed, but still cannot use the water for cooking or drinking because their plumbing still has the residual contaminates.

What You Need to Know About Coal Ash

Local and state government officials may be gambling with the health of Prince William County (PWC) residents and the environment. Most people living in PWC do not know that Dominion Virginia Power burned coal at its Possum Point power station from 1955 to 2003. They also do not know that over 4 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash and contaminated water is maintained in 5 large ponds. The power plant is located in the southeast corner of the county adjacent to the Potomac River and Quantico Creek.


Coal combustion residuals (CCR), commonly known as coal ash, is extremely toxic, containing high levels of arsenic, lead, selenium, vanadium, and other cancer-causing agents. Because of the serious threat to humans and the environment from improperly stored coal ash, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in April 2015 a rule regulating the disposal of CCR. The regulations provide comprehensive requirements for the safe disposal of CCRs from coal-fired power plants.


Legal cases have linked improperly constructed coal ash disposal impoundments/ponds to cause harm to groundwater, and the EPA rule addresses the risks identified in these cases (i.e., leaking of contaminants into groundwater) by adding new requirements for coal ash impoundments and landfills, including:

  • Groundwater monitoring around impoundments and landfills
  • Liner requirements for new impoundments and landfills to protect groundwater
  • Groundwater cleanup from coal ash contamination
  • Closure of unlined impoundments that are polluting groundwater
  • Closure of impoundments that fail to meet engineering and structural standards, or are located too close to a drinking water source
  • Restrictions on the location of new impoundments and landfills so they cannot be built in sensitive areas, such as wetlands and earthquake zones
  • Proper closure of all impoundments and landfills that will no longer receive CCRs


Since Dominion’s impoundments/ponds at Possum Point are no longer receiving CCRs, they must be properly closed. Dominion’s plan is to discharge the contaminated water in their ponds and then move all of the coal ash to one large pond that Dominion claims is partially lined. A permit to discharge the contaminated water, after treating, into Quantico Creek was issued in January 2016. Discharging of the treated water is underway.


The discharged water must be tested weekly and reported on Dominion’s website. The permit established the maximum amounts of deadly toxic components allowed in the treated water to be discharged by Dominion into Quantico Creek. Unfortunately, the maximum amounts are higher than the allowable amounts required by North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. These neighboring states have been aggressively cleaning up coal ash sites, and are requiring greater care and use of the latest technology. PWC residents deserve equal care, if not better.


Sadly, PWC residents are suffering today from toxic contaminates leaching into their groundwater. In addition, the natural environment around the Possum Point power plant is also suffering, including Quantico Creek, Potomac River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. For example, Dominion Virginia Power revealed the company dumped 33.7 million gallons of untreated coal ash wastewater into Quantico Creek in May 2015.


One of the PWC families suffering from the affects of toxic heavy metals lives in a home adjacent to a beaver pond that separates them from one of Dominion’s coal ash ponds. Their well water is contaminated, having been tested by more than one independent lab. Their neighbors’ wells are also contaminated. For many years, they lived like any normal family, drinking, cooking, and bathing in the contaminated water, unaware of its highly toxic contamination. They were never warned by Dominion or PWC of the threat, nor that many millions of gallons of toxic water was illegally discharged into the beaver pond. Today, in addition to very serious health issues, their beautiful property and home are worthless, a serious problem for the retired couple. They thought they were living in their retirement home. After not receiving any help from Dominion or the county, they paid $40,000 to have water piped to their home. However, because all of the plumbing in their home was exposed to the contaminates for many years, they cannot use the water for cooking or drinking. Some of these very unfortunate and seemingly ignored Possum Point residents will tell you their stories and challenges in a film about this serious issue that Protected Places Media has started and will screen in the spring of 2017.


There is conflicting information from Dominion, state and local governments, and many nonprofit organizations about the extent of past and present contamination and the effectiveness of Dominion’s plans for their toxic coal ash. If Dominion executes its plan for Possum Point’s 4 million cubic yards of coal ash by using and capping a partially lined pond, it is highly likely that toxic contaminates will continue to leach into groundwater and the environment into perpetuity. Local and state government officials should be gambling with the health of PWC residents and the environment.


The publishers of CPWToday are concerned about the impact of toxic coal ash contamination and believe you should be concerned too. As stated by Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper: “The people of Prince William County and Virginia need to express their concerns (about the proper disposal of coal ash) with their elected officials. It is only with public support that the right decisions will be made for the benefit of the people, instead of large powerful corporations.”


Watch our video to learn more about this important issue and contact the PWC Board of Supervisors and your state representatives. Ask them to act on behalf of PWC citizens, and not Dominion Virginia Power.


For more information:

Potomac Riverkeeper Network – potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

Waterkeeper Alliance – waterkeeperalliance.org

Earth Justice – earthjustice.org

Southern Environmental Law Center - southernenvironment.org

Dominion Virginia Power – https://www.dom.com/corporate/our-commitments/environment/coal-ash-pond-closure-management