Golf Course or Coal Ash Landfill?

A lawsuit links Dominion Power to hiding coal ash pollution.  And when I say links, I mean that literally. 

Seriously, what is it with coal companies and golf courses?  I mean you can't throw a piece of blasted rubble in Appalachia without hitting a mountaintop removal apologist who swears that  those desolate moonscapes are destined to become fairways.

Now comes news that construction of a golf course in Chesapeake, Virginia was really just an elaborate ruse to bury unwanted coal combustion waste -- coal ash -- from power plants.  Geez, I sure wouldn't want to deal with those hazardous fly, sand traps. 

According to the story in the Virginian-Pilot, Dominion Virginia Power oversaw the building of a coal waste dump with 1.5 million tons of fly ash to be exact -- only the landfill was disguised as an 18-hole golf course.  

In a sworn statement as part of a lawsuit against the utility, the construction manager for the project contends that Dominion officials were driven by how much of the material they could put in the 217-acre site.

"It was clear that a golf course wasn't being built," the paper quotes Derrick Howell, who was hired in 2001 to develop the course. "It was a coal ash dump.  All Dominion ever cared about was tonnage and how much more they could dump."

Coal ash, the powdery by-product of coal-burning power plants, contains heavy metals that can be hazardous when inhaled or ingested through contaminated water.  (Duke University just completed a peer-reviewed study of the significant health risks posed by coal ash spilled at TVA's Kingston power plant in Tennessee.) 

The accusations against Dominion emerged as part of a $1.25 billion lawsuit against the power company and its partners, filed by 62 nearby homeowners who blame the project for contaminating groundwater.  The residents want the fly ash removed, and the site cleaned and restored, along with millions more to pay for property damange and medical costs. (Dominion is already dealing with another lawsuit filed in March by 400 other residents living near the course, also seeking more than $1 billion in damages.) 

According to the article:

The new suit contains additional charges that Dominion Virginia Power and its partners hid the risks of burying tons of coal ash in the middle of two residential communities.  It charges that the company has known for decades about the risks of burying the material. It also states that Dominion deliberately misled residents and city officials by describing the material as "safe as dirt."

Reportedly, Dominion officials visited the construction site frequently and saw coal ash sitting in water, yet maintained to workers that the material posed absolutely no harm. 

"Dominion Power directed the project and was primarily concerned with dumping the coal ash," Howell said. "I was told that coal ash was stockpiling at Dominion's plant landfill, so they had to ship it for deposit."

After three years, Howell quit the project and is now the star witness for the plaintiffs in the Circuit Court case.

One things' for sure, Dominion unintentionally picked an appropriate name for the course: Battlefield Golf Club.