ISLE OF WIGHT — Pollutants emitted by a 1,500-megawatt coal-fueled power plant proposed for Surry County could have far-reaching, long-lasting health and environmental fallouts for Hampton Roads, according to a spokesman with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Based on Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's state environmental applications, the proposed Cypress Creek Power Station would add 118 pounds of mercury, 920 pounds of lead and 3,085 tons of nitrogen to the environment annually, according to a panel of experts at Monday's community forum in Isle of Wight County.
Even if the emissions fall within state guidelines, the chemicals will be strong enough to be hazardous to the environment, said Chris Moore, spokesman for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
About 35 people — including several Surry residents who oppose the project — attended the meeting in the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors meeting room.
The Surry County Board of Supervisors and Dendron Town Council approved controversial land-use ordinances earlier this month for the 1,600-acre site where Old Dominion wants to build the facility. In January, the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors urged Surry's leaders to demand an independent environmental survey before approving Old Dominion's rezoning applications.
Panelists at Monday's meeting said the toxins would further contaminate the nearby James and Blackwater rivers, as well as other local waterways that feed into the Chesapeake Bay, and contribute to myriad health problems for residents living within a 60-mile radius of the site.
Old Dominion Electric Cooperative did not have a representative on hand to answer questions.
"I don't think coal is the right use for this site," said Robert Burnley, a former director of the state Department of Environmental Quality and a member of the panel. "It will have a negative impact on tourism (across the region) and will keep other industry from coming to the area."
"This plant has the chance to push the bay over the edge," Burnley said. "This much nitrogen is going to offset all we have done to save the ( Chesapeake) Bay."
Richmond physician Christine Llewelyn, also a panelist, said the chemicals — particularly high mercury levels — have been proven to cause developmental delays and lowered IQs in children, as well as cause increased cases of respiratory, neurological and cardiac problems in people of all ages.
There's been an increasing demand for energy in Virginia over the past two decades, said panelist and retired electrical engineer Bruce Powell.
According to the Virginia Energy Report, the state was using 81 percent of its energy capacity in 1990. In 2007, residents were using 103 percent of the state's energy capacity.
"That means we are importing more energy from surrounding states," Powell said. "Use is outstripping demand, and we need sources to meet that demand."
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What's next Federal and state regulatory agencies will begin environmental impact studies on Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's coal-fueled power plant.