Lake Anna’s in hot water

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The Water Control Board of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) has scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday, July 18, 7pm at Louisa Middle School, 1009 Davis Highway (Rt. 22), in Mineral, Virginia. VADEQ plans to reissue the permit that allows Dominion Power (formerly VEPCO/Virginia Power) to continue dumping very hot water without any temperature limits (316A variance) into “cooling lagoons” in Lake Anna. Dominion treats the lagoons as a private Waste Heat Treatment Facility (WHTF). The Virginia attorney general concurs, although there has never been an authorization by the federal government transferring “public trust waters of the U.S.,” i.e, Lake Anna, to the private domain of Dominion Virginia Power. The very hot water is that which is circulated around the nuclear assemblies to keep them cool. It raises the temperature in Lake Anna, and this has wreaked havoc on the Lake‘s ecosystem and downstream into the York River watershed for years. (Lake Anna empties into the North Anna River, which joins with the South Anna River to form the Pamunkey. The Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers join to form the York River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay.)

Reissuance of the permit allowing Dominion to dump hot wastewater without temperature limits is a violation of the Clean Water Act if the lagoons are indeed “Waters of the United States.” Lake Anna is used as a recreational lake and is now home to 8,000 people. Since last October, Friends of Lake Anna, (residents on the lake who are NOT opposed to nuclear reactors) have been asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rule on whether the lagoons or “hot side” of the lake constitute “Waters of the United States.” If so, temperature of water discharges from the nuclear units must comply with standards set by the Clean Water Act.

The North Anna River into which Lake Anna flows and the Pamunkey are further impaired by the withdrawal of water and then its return as treated sewage from Kings’ Dominion. If the “other “ Dominion has its way and builds a third nuclear reactor on Lake Anna (which is probably the smallest watershed on the East Coast on which nukes have been constructed), the temperatures in Lake Anna will rise higher and evaporation loss will be greater. Downstream flows will further decrease. Already agricultural interests downstream on the Pamunkey are applying for construction of water-pumping stations to secure their water rights because of anticipated lower flows if a third nuclear reactor is built. The population of Hanover County, just north of Richmond, which includes this watershed, is growing. So is that of other counties through which the Pamunkey flows. Although the watershed is distant from our own Albemarle County, attention to this issue is imperative. This is a way we can draw attention to the need to protect our state’s water resources. Water is precious. It is LIFE.

This is also an opportunity to say no to more nukes. We don’t need them. Global warming will not be abated by nuclear energy. A technology that generates highly radioactive waste as a by-product and then calls itself “clean and green” is neither. We need to let our state bureaucrats know we want to safeguard our water resources. We don’t want nukes—or dirty coal—and the continued impairment of our Commonwealth’s water resources. We want energy conservation, efficiency, and an investment in renewable technologies.

Please write to Governor Kaine (tkaine@governor.virginia.gov) and to Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant (preston.Bryant@governor.virginia.gov.) Ask that they act to postpone the hearing until the EPA rules on whether Lake Anna’s lagoons are “Waters of the United States“ and Dominion’s activities should therefore be in compliance with the Clean Water Act. Also, send comments to Susan Mackert at VADEQ regarding the issuance of the 316A variance, which will permit Dominion to dump without temperature limits (call her at 703-583-3853 or e-mail her at sdmackert@deq.virginia.gov.) This would only advance Dominion’s project to build the third reactor.

Elena Day, a longtime Charlottesville resident, is active with People’s Alliance for Clean Energy, a group of Central Virginians who promote energy efficiency, renewable technologies and conservation to satisfy energy needs.

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