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Dominion begins releasing coal ash wastewater into James River

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FLUVANNA COUNTY, Va. -- Dominion Virginia Power released treated coal ash wastewater into the James River for the first time on Wednesday. The move, approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, has caused concern among environmental activists who have held multiple protests in recent months.

In March, Dominion agreed to a deal with the James River Association after the utility giant committed to enhanced treatment of the coal ash pond water.

CBS 6 was on hand Wednesday as Dominion demonstrated what they are doing to protect the environment.

Bremo Station in Fluvanna County

Bremo Station in Fluvanna County

“Everything you've always enjoyed doing in the James, you'll enjoy during this project.  And you'll enjoy for years to come,” said Jason Williams, Environmental Manager, Dominion Virginia Power.

There are rows of trailers, a number of tanks, and piping throughout this system.

It's part of a seven-step cleaning process to help Dominion Virginia Power end its coal ash operations.

“This is a state of the art treatment system at a cost of about $35 million because we live here too.  And we want to ensure that the James is protected,” said Williams.

Dominion Virginia Power Bremo station

Dominion's Environmental manager Jason Williams took CBS 6 on a tour of the wastewater treatment facility assembled outside the power plant in Fluvanna County.

Nearly 200 gallons of water from several huge ponds go through a series of filters that capture any loose particles, with double piping and a protective rubber lining to prevent any leaks.

Williams said the process is very thorough.

"Absolutely, it's important to remember here that we collect the water, we treat it," he said.

Williams emphasized that their treatment facilities will make the discharged wastewater even cleaner than the DEQ is requiring of them in permits.

The wastewater is then tested and sent into a 950 thousand gallon holding tank, the size of above ground swimming pools.

The wastewater is then tested and sent into a 950 thousand gallon holding tank, the size of above ground swimming pools.

The wastewater is then tested and sent into a 950-thousand gallon holding tank, the size of above ground swimming pools.

The water is then released in the nearby river.

“If, for any reason, we need to treat it again, we can send it right back to the beginning of the line,” said Williams.

That would essentially start the whole process over.

Dominion Virginia Power officials said it will take two years to complete the entire process. The public can get the results of the water testing weekly on the company's website. 

For more infomation about CBS 6's reporting of the Dominion coal ash wastewater plan click here.

RELATED: Dominion discusses the ‘2 biggest misconceptions’ about coal ash permits