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Report: Plant Wansley adding a substantial amount of cobalt to the local groundwater

A new report released by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice claims that 92- percent of Georgia’s coal-fired power plants have contaminated groundwater with one or more toxic pollutants. The report is said to be based off publicly reported groundwater monitoring data released by Georgia’s coal fired power plants.

Earthjustice (originally Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) is a non-profit public interest organization based in the United States dedicated to litigating environmental issues

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) is a Washington, D.C.-based environmental nonprofit organization that advocates for more effective enforcement of environmental laws.

The report claims that Plant Wansley near Carrollton has a “cobalt problem,” “with unsafe levels in 11 wells, adding a substantial amount of cobalt to the local groundwater.”

Cobalt toxicity can cause patients to suffer from fever, inflammation, and low thyroid levels. Some patients have also reported heart failure, loss of vision, loss of hearing, and organ damage.

The report claims the site also has unsafe levels of boron, lithium, radium, and sulfate.

“Because these ash ponds are located close to lakes and rivers and will continue to be inundated by groundwater, their contamination plumes will continue to flow into the State’s waters,” the report continues. “In addition, nearby drinking water wells have not been tested, and it is possible that contamination may flow to communities who draw their drinking water from the aquifers.”

With the findings from the 12 coal-fired power plants, the report asks “Will the state halt the widespread pollution of its aquifers and protect its rivers, lakes, and drinking water supplies? Or will the state continue to allow this toxic contamination to flow in perpetuity?”

The entire report can be found here:

 

UPDATE: Georgia Power issued the following information in a press release, Thursday morning 9:00am 12/13/18:

“Georgia Power continues to make progress on ash pond closures”

Company in process of completely excavating 19 ash ponds nearest waterways and closing remaining 10
using advanced engineering methods and closure technologies

Company’s groundwater monitoring results first posted 18+ months ahead of federal deadline,
no identified risk to public health or drinking water

29 permit applications submitted to Georgia EPD detail significant engineering plans

Dewatering process underway at three plants, Plant Branch to begin dewatering in late January 2019 

ATLANTA – December 13, 2018 – Georgia Power today announced the latest progress on its plan to safely close all 29 ash ponds at 11 active and retired coal-fired power plant sites across the state. The company is in the process of completely excavating 19 ash ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers with the remaining 10 being closed in place using advanced engineering methods and closure technologies.

The company has now substantially completed closure construction activities for seven ash ponds at Plants Hammond, Branch, Kraft, McDonough and Yates. This includes removal of all ash from five ash ponds at Plants Branch, Kraft, McDonough and Yates. Additionally, construction activities are currently underway at multiple sites with closure construction efforts expected to be completed at four additional ash ponds at Plants McDonough, McManus and Yates in 2019.    

Last month, Georgia Power completed the submission of 29 Coal Combustion Residuals (CCRs) permit applications as required by the Georgia CCR rule for ash ponds and landfills. These permit applications outlined significant and detailed engineering information about Georgia Power’s ash pond closure plans and landfill operations plans. The permitting application process was developed and completed with significant internal and external resources supported by multiple third-party consulting and engineering firms.

“We took early action to quickly and safely begin closing all of our ash ponds with our top priority being to protect water quality every step of the way,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental and Natural Resources for Georgia Power. “Our multi-year closure strategy is aggressive, and we are making great progress, while remaining committed to working quickly and safely, protecting water quality every step of the way and complying with all state and federal requirements.”

In August, the company updated its ash pond closure plans for Plants Bowen and Branch, specifically to increase the number of excavated ponds at both site locations after continued engineering and analysis.

Georgia Power first announced its plans to permanently close all of its ash ponds in September 2015, with initial plans released in June 2016. Georgia Power’s ash pond closure plans fully comply with the federal Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Rule, as well as the more stringent requirements of Georgia’s state CCR rule. Georgia was one of the first states in the country to develop its own rule regulating management and storage of CCR such as coal ash. The state rule, which goes further than the federal rule, regulates all ash ponds and landfills in the state and includes a comprehensive permitting program through which the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) will approve all actions to ensure ash pond closures are protective of water quality.

Ash pond closures are site-specific and balance multiple factors, such as pond size, location, geology and amount of material; and each closure is certified by a team of independent, professional engineers. In 2016, the company announced that all ash ponds will stop receiving coal ash in three years and the significant construction work necessary to accommodate the dry-handling of ash is on track to be completed in 2019.

 

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