The Dominion Virginia Power Station in Chester began supplying electricity in 1945 to over 70,000 homes and businesses around the Richmond Metro area. The 113 Megawatt (MW) power station was operating at full steam only 15 years beyond the widespread use of electricity in the country.
Fast forward to today and the Chesterfield station is supplying 1,640 MW of power translating to over a million users.
Joshua J. Bennett, director of Chesterfield Power Station, manages the mega facility operated by 257 employees. Bennett knows each one by name, from those who operate and maintain generators to those who run the machinery that moves the coal to the boiler.
Bennett, who is an electrical engineer, began his career in the Navy submarine service in 1983, earned his bachelor’s at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and an MBA at ODU, and began using his mega skill as an operations manager, technical team leader, and director. He has been in one aspect of electrical engineering or another since 1993. He is currently Dominion’s Regional Director at the Chesterfield and Bellemeade Power Stations.
“For more than 70 years, Chesterfield Power Station has been generating electricity to serve customers in Virginia,” Bennett said. “I have the privilege of leading a group of… employees who are dedicated to doing their jobs safely and in a manner that is protective of the environment.”
The Chesterfield station had some public perception issues during the last six months. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) required new permits for power plants. Due to the failing of fly ash pond dams in North Carolina and Tennessee, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required fly ash ponds in Virginia and other states to be dewatered and the ash moved to another location where it could not pollute local streams and rivers.
Several coal-fired plants in Virginia were required to submit a plan on how they would dewater and deal with their fly ash. By the end of July, all Virginia power station plans were approved by the State Water Control Board, including Possum Point Power Station in Prince William County and Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County, as well as Chesterfield.
The Chesterfield station will complete the closure of the upper ash pond in December 2018. The lower ash pond will close by June 2019.
Treated and tested water will be released into the James River. Test wells are currently being drilled on the perimeter of both ponds.
According to Bennett, once the fly ash has been dewatered, the ash will be moved to a landfill northwest of the plant. The landfill will be lined with a special plastic-type liner and filtration system that should keep the wet fly ash being removed from entering the ground water as well as the fly ash from the boilers in the future. Trucks will cross a 500-foot bridge that is spanning a wetland to access the landfill.
“We think we run a safe operation,” Bennett said. “We want to get a lot better.”
He said it is important for those who live in the area to know that the power station is open to group who want to tour the facility. He said he hosted a groups of law students and a Boy Scout troop recently.
“We want our neighbors to know what we’re doing, and we’re working on plans to bring residents who live near the power station in for a visit,” Bennett said.
Bennett and other representatives from Dominion met Oct. 26 with those who live near the plant to update them on the progress of the work that is beginning on the DEQ permit.