The Virginia energy company has challenged a district court ruling that their coal ash pits violate the Clean Water Act
Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest electric utility, petitioned the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney’s ruling that the electric company is violating federal law by discharging arsenic through groundwater into neighboring waters from a coal ash dump site, as reported by Associated Press. The company argued that groundwater contamination through solid waste is not regulated by the Clean Water Act.
The previous ruling found that the coal ash pits leached arsenic into groundwater, which continued to flow to surface water, thus violating the federal Clean Water Act. The ruling also required Dominion Energy to apply for a revised solid-waste permit and test surface water, groundwater and sediment for a minimum of two years. The case bears significance as numerous other energy producers across the country–ranging from Virginia to Alaska–face similar violations for coal ash pit groundwater contamination.
The Sierra Club argued that the discharge of arsenic from the unlined coal ash pits leaches into the groundwater, which makes its way to the nearby Elizabeth River and neighboring water bodies. The presiding judge questioned the Sierra Club’s argument, saying that the Clean Water Act was “not intended to regulate groundwater.”
A ruling has not been made yet, but the decision of this case will serve as an example for future cases of coal ash pit contaminants impacting groundwater quality.