Georgia Power announced its closure of 29 coal ash ponds across the state continues, with five of 29 coal ash ponds at 11 current and former sites now completely emptied.
The utility expects to finish closure construction activities at an additional six ash ponds by the end of this year.
“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 & Natural Resources for Georgia Power. “We are working well in advance of regulatory deadlines and posted groundwater results 18 months ahead of today’s required federal deadline. Additionally, we are exceeding state and federal requirements by completely excavating 17 ash ponds adjacent to waterways and using advanced engineering methods to close the remaining 12 in place on our property.”
Georgia Power’s ash pond closure plans were designed to fully comply with the federal Coal Combustion Residuals 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 rule regulates all ash ponds and landfills in the state and includes a comprehensive permitting program through which the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will approve all actions to ensure ash pond closures are protective of water quality.
Since 2016, Georgia Power has installed approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells around its ash ponds and on-site landfills to actively monitor groundwater quality. The company has also engaged independent, third-party contractors for sampling and accredited independent laboratories for analysis. The first round of testing was completed with results published in August 2016, more than 18 months ahead of federal requirements, and the company has regularly posted testing results on Georgia Power’s website and reported them to the Georgia EPD.
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.
Georgia Power remains committed to removing all coal ash from 17 ash ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers and using advanced engineering methods and technologies to close the remaining 12 ash ponds in place. The ash from all ash ponds will either be relocated to a permitted landfill, consolidated with other closing ash ponds on-site or recycled. Approximately 50 percent of the coal ash Georgia Power produces today is recycled for various uses such as Portland cement, concrete and cinder blocks.