BREDL additional comments on Chickahominy Power Groundwater Withdrawal Special Exception
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
8260 Thomas Nelson Hwy., Lovingston, VA
February 14, 2020
Mr. Joseph Grist
Mr. David Paylor
Members of the State Water Control Board
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
1111 E. Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Re: Chickahominy Power, Groundwater Withdrawal Special Exception #GW0078700
Plant Location: 6721 Chambers Road, Charles City, VA 20203
Dear Mr. Grist, Mr. Paylor & Members of the State Water Control Board:
On behalf of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and our chapters and members in Virginia, I write to request you deny the special exception requested by the Chickahominy Power, LLC. The exception, if granted, would be contrary to the letter and purpose of the state's Ground Water Management Act of 1992 and specifically the efforts by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to protect the aquifers in the Eastern Virginia Ground Water Management Area.
In 2016 in cooperation and coordination, with research and studies completed by the United States Geologic Service, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued an Integrated Resource Report to then Governor of Virginia Terrence McAuliffe and the Virginia General Assembly. Chapter 6 of the report, entitled, "Groundwater Protection Programs/Assessment" outlines steps taken to update the area covered by the Eastern Virginia Ground Water Management Area (EVGWMA) to include all of the Coastal Plain east of I-95 "in order to ensure comprehensive management of the aquifer system." In addition to expanding the EVGWMA, in January, 2014, Virginia had codified a criteria that requiredissuance of groundwater withdrawal permits to withdrawers of groundwater in excess of 300,000 gallons per month in Virginia's Ground Water Management Areas. Over 100 existing users applied for permits as a result of the expansion of the EVGWMA. At the time the report was issued in 2016, 53 existing user permits had been issued to 82 facilities.
On December 15, 2017, an article appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch entitled, "State reaches deals with large water users to preserve aquifers." The article quoted the Integrated Resource Report of 2014, citing the Potomac, Aquia, Yorktown-Eastover and Piney Point aquifers as being "confined aquifers, with relatively low recharge from rainfall" and noted that some had "declined by as much as 200 feet in the decades since World War II." The decline in water levels also created additional issues because as land sinks, it creates a permanent loss in groundwater storage capacity in those aquifers, as well as increased opportunity for intrusion of salt water into these fresh water aquifers. The article stated, "From 1979 to 1995, the land in southeastern Virginia dropped 24.2 millimeters at Franklin . . . and 50.2 millimeters at Suffolk from 1982 to 1995." Bill Hayden, VADEQ spokesman, is quoted in the article saying "this is a long-term issue and will take years to resolve." Finally, Governor McAuliffe said the permits had allowed withdrawal of 146 million gallons per day when he took office, but the new permits would cut the allowable consumption by as much as 52 percent.
We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the VADEQ to protect the aquifers in the EVGWMA from over-use and the loss of their fresh water storage capacity caused by sinking land. We must, therefore, question the reasoning now being used to issue a permit special exception which would allow Chickahominy Power to withdraw up to 30,000,000 gallons of water from these fragile aquifers wiping out much of the progress made in past years.
We clearly understand the VADEQ under Director Paylor wishes to maintain Virginia's "business friendly" status, but we must ask at what cost? We believe there is no reasonable position which can be manufactured to justify this permit. We ask the State Water Control Board deny the application for this special exception.
Sharon V. Ponton
Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator
More info: BREDL requests VA DEQ & SWCB deny special exception as requested by Chickahominy Power