Georgia Power has announced continued progress in the company's efforts to safely and permanently close 29 ash ponds at 11 current and former coal-fired power plants across the state. The company initiated ash pond closure preparation and construction activities in early 2016 with a commitment to being protective of the state's waterways. As of March 2018, Georgia Power has completed closure construction activities and removed 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 six additional ash ponds at Plants McDonough, McManus, Hammond and Yates 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 the 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 (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 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.
Since 2016, Georgia Power has installed approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells around its ash ponds and on-site landfills to actively monitor groundwater quality. Monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. 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. Based on the extensive data collected, the company has identified no risk to public health or drinking water.
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.