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Report: Proposed ODEC Power Plant = $200 Million in Health Care Costs

May 26, 2011

NORFOLK, Va. - A proposal for a new coal-fired power plant in Surry County comes with the promise of new jobs and a new energy source, but a new report says people, the air and water supply would pay a hefty price.

The report, released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), says the plant's smokestacks would emit mercury, carbon dioxide and fine soot particles. Those ingedients can add up to a slew of health-related impacts, says Dr. Stephen Shield, an area asthma and allergy specialist. This is especially troubling, Shield says, because Virginia already is ranked sixth in the nation for mortality from air pollution, and another coal-fired power plant could create more health problems, especially for people with lung issues.

"Particularly people with asthma, COPD, emphysema. This can lead to symptoms of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness. (For) people without lung disease; it can even lead to increased risk of heart attack and stroke."

The proposed coal plant would add an additional $200 million annually in health-care costs to the region, the report says.

Health officials from the American Lung Association in Virginia, the Virginia Asthma Coalition and doctors in Hampton Roads and Williamsburg have come out in public opposition to construction of the plant, proposed by the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.

In addition to harming air quality, says Chris Moore, a CBF scientist, the coal plant would have a negative impact on water quality. It would harm drinking water, he says, as well as businesses which rely on the Bay and its tributaries.

"Poor water quality has had a negative effect on a number of industries, most importantly here in the Hampton Roads region: seafood-based industries like blue crabs and oyster harvest."

Moore hopes decisionmakers will reject an additional coal-fired power plant and instead invest in alternative energies that are not harmful to human health, the environment and the economy.

The report, "A Coal Plant's Drain on Health and Wealth," is online at

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA