Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond made Georgia Water Coalition’s Dirty Dozen list once again. The location and storage of massive amounts of coal-ash near the Coosa River was named on the list as one of the state’s top 12 environmental issues.
The advocacy group stated the current measures — including excavation and relocation of three of four reservoirs containing toxic coal ash — isn’t enough. Georgia Power found that there were unsafe levels of coal ash contaminants in 10 of 35 groundwater testing wells, leading to the decision to put the plant on the list.
A fourth ash reservoir located directly adjacent to the Coosa River will be closed along with the rest of Georgia Power’s ash ponds.
The company does not plan to excavate and relocate the material.
“One million cubic yards of coal ash is being left in an unlined pit with the ash coming into frequent contact with groundwater,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, executive director and riverkeeper of the Coosa River Basin Initiative. “Leaving them in place risks catastrophic releases of coal ash to our rivers.”
Georgia Power said in a statement that, based on extensive data collected by the company, no risk to public health or drinking water has been identified.
“As we close all 29 of our ash ponds (statewide), we are completely excavating 19 and closing the remaining 10 in place using proven engineering methods specifically designed to be protective of groundwater and the environment,” said Georgia Power spokeswoman Holly Crawford.
The report states Plant Hammond’s fourth coal ash pond has not been tested for groundwater contamination even though it is 44 feet deep and is in contact with groundwater.
“Rather than excavating this pond — as they are doing with others on site — the company plans to leave the coal ash capped in place,” the report states.
Georgia Power maintains the closing method poses no risk to nearby waterways or groundwater.
“We stand by the data delivered from our approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells installed around our ash ponds and on-site landfills to actively monitor groundwater quality,” said Crawford.
This is not the first time environmentalists have butted heads with Georgia Power, even though Plant Hammond is now closed.
In 2018, the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice released a report claiming that the groundwater had arsenic levels that are 40 times the federal standard and 10 times the safe level of molybdenum levels.
Plant Hammond was on the coalition’s list in 2017 for indefinitely delaying plans to provide relief to the Coosa River. The plan was supposed to involve cleaning the river of toxic metals that were a result of the coal ash according to the water coalition.
The plant also made the list in 2015 and 2016.
The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of more than 250 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations.
The annual Dirty Dozen report serves as a call to action for the state’s leaders and its citizens to fix these threats to Georgia’s water.