MANASSAS, Va. (CN) – Homeowners in a Washington, D.C., suburb claim in court that untreated coal ash leaching from an aged power plant operated by Dominion Virginia Power has poisoned their groundwater and forced them to use bottled water for everything from drinking to bathing to brushing their teeth.
The Possum Point Power Station located about 30 miles south of Washington, D.C., was a coal-fired plant from 1955 to 2003. It now consists of four generating units, two of which are fired by natural gas, one that is oil-fired, and one that uses both oil and natural gas.
In separate complaints filed in Prince William County on April 13, plaintiffs Brian West and Dan, Patty and Rachel Marrow, residents of Dumfries, Va., say that despite the switch from coal, the power station’s grounds still contain billions of gallons of coal ash, stored in a series of five “ponds” that contain a mix of toxic ash and contaminated water.
The National Institute of Health has classified coal ash as a carcinogen and warns that it poses fatal health risks when inhaled or ingested.
One of Possum Point’s coal ash ponds sits just 700 feet from West’s property, his complaint says.
“The toxic slurry has migrated into the groundwater and has contaminated the plaintiff’s property including his potable well,” it continues.
The slurry is constantly discharging a nasty sludge under much of the surrounding soil as well, he claims.
West says he was only made aware of the contamination after he tuned into a Dumfries Town Hall meeting on television in February, and that he’s since stopped using his well water for drinking, cooking or even brushing his teeth. Instead he uses bottled water.
Environmental Consultants and Contractors Inc. took water samples not long after. Inspectors found unsafe levels of lead, barium, aluminum and boron in the well; all elements of coal ash contamination, the inspectors deemed the water too dangerous for consumption, West said.
In their complaint, the Marrows say they live just 1,300 feet from one of the plants coal ash ponds, and that they too have discontinued use of their well water.
Also like West, the Marrows had inspectors test their well, and that the results were positive for contamination. They’ve since paid $40,000 to be connected to the municipal water supply.
West seeks $1 million in compensatory damages; the Marrows seek $6 million. Both lawsuits ask that the defendants pay all future costs the plaintiffs incur as a result of the contamination.
All plaintiffs are represented by Mark Favaloro of Virginia Beach.
Dominion Power spokesman Robert Richardson declined to comment on the litigation.