Georgia Power to Close Ash Ponds

Thursday, June 16, 2016 @ 01:06 PM gHale

Georgia Power will close dozens of toxic coal ash ponds across Georgia within three years, much earlier than anticipated.

Georgia Power’s 29 ash ponds statewide will no longer receive coal ash within three years. Ash from 16 of those ponds, located near lakes or rivers, will end up completely removed and added to other ponds and landfills or recycled.

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The company’s other 13 ponds will be “closed in place” with concrete barriers and other preventive measures to, hopefully, keep arsenic, lead and other heavy metals in the ash from the groundwater.

Aaron Mitchell, the utility’s general manager for environmental affairs, said it will cost $1.5 billion to $2 billion to close the ponds and keep the coal-fired electric plants from creating additional “wet” ash. He added the power plants will keep running while the conversion work is underway.

Environmental groups have been pressuring Georgia Power and other utility companies for years to shut down the waste lagoons and isolate the ash in safer facilities.

In North Carolina, after a lagoon at a retired Duke Energy plant spilled thousands of tons of ash into the Dan River in 2014, lawmakers passed a law requiring all of the utilities’ ash ponds to get safety inspections.

In recent weeks, as a result of those inspections, North Carolina’s environmental protection division decided that all of the ponds will have to close and the waste removed.

That’s already happening in South Carolina. As the result of a 2012 lawsuit settlement, the state’s three utilities agreed to shut down all of the state’s lagoons and remove the material, either to more secure disposal facilities, or by recycling it as cement or other building materials.

Last week, Duke University researchers concluded ash ponds leaked at all of the 21 power plants they studied in five states, including Georgia Power plants in Georgia. High levels of arsenic and selenium were found at all the sites, the researchers said.

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