September 1, 2008

A Vital First Step at Fly Ash Course

DOMINION Virginia Power could have balked at the idea that it should pay for some of the consequences of Chesapeake's boneheaded decision in 2001 to build a golf course with fly ash.

Fortunately, the company has declared that it would pay the costs of extending city water to homes near the golf course, placing a down payment of several million dollars on a solution to the mess.

In agreeing to pay as much as $6 million to extend water lines, Dominion did not admit that the fly ash it said was safe seven years ago is now a problem. But agreeing to water lines was an important start toward allaying, for the moment, the health and financial concerns posed by having 1.5 million tons of fly ash in Battlefield Golf Club at Centerville.

The powdery residue contains such metals as arsenic, lead and mercury, which can pose environmental threats to air and water.

Neighbors - 200 potable wells are within a half-mile of the golf course - understandably are angry and worried. Recent assurances from the city health director that the well water "is perfectly safe now, currently, to drink, to cook with, to shower with" were little comfort.

As various agencies work to figure out how much and what types of toxins have leached into the land and water nearby , officials are starting to address the consequences of a hasty, ill-informed council decision. But it may be years before anyone knows the long- term effects of living near high concentrations of fly ash.

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