The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has proposed fining Dominion Virginia Power about $260,000 for two oil spills that fouled public waters in January, including a 13,500-gallon spill that flushed from a Crystal City substation into a waterfowl sanctuary and the Potomac River.
The environmental agency recommended on Monday that the utility pay a fine of $259,535 and reimburse the state $5,883 for its investigative costs related to both the Crystal City spill and a 9,000-gallon spill in Staunton in Augusta County.
The consent order is out for public comment for 30 days, then it will likely end up at the State Water Control Board for action at its December meeting, said DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden. Dominion was required to monitor its wells for the last two weeks of October because of the spills and will have to do soagain during the last two weeks of January 2017.
The proposed fine could have reached $1.3 million. Hayden said the recommended amount was determined based on investigation and analysis of the impact of the spill.
A Dominion spokesman said the company would comply with the order.
The Crystal City incident began Jan. 24 when mineral oil spilled from a transformer at Dominion’s substation in Arlington. About a week later, oil was seen in the nearby Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary and the Potomac River near Reagan National Airport. An oil sheen on the Potomac was spotted as far south as Dyke Marsh, south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
The utility’s investigation into the incident, submitted to the state in August, said most of the spill was contained in an underground vault or troughs, but those vessels were not completely sealed. The oil leaked through a storm drain system into Roaches Run and from there into the Potomac River.
Some 11,120 gallons of oil were recovered, Dominion said, and the utility spent $4.2 million for response, remediation and restoration in Arlington.
Twenty-one birds, mostly Canada geese, died after the oil coated their feathers, and more were treated by a wildlife rescue team. Recreational fishermen were urged not to consume fish they caught in the vicinity during the two-week period when the spill was under investigation by a U.S. Coast Guard-led team.
The Staunton spill, on Jan. 6, ran from a transformer into a tributary of Bell Creek and into a farm pond. Dominion said all but 100 gallons were recovered there.