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.
Protecting Water Quality Throughout Ash Pond Closure Process
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 continues to post testing results on Georgia Power’s website and report them to Georgia EPD. Based on the extensive data collected, the company has identified no risk to public health or drinking water.
Georgia Power’s commitment to protecting water quality of surface waters, such as lakes and rivers, includes comprehensive and customized dewatering processes during ash pond closures. The company’s process treats the water to ensure that it meets the requirements of the plant’s wastewater discharge permits approved by the Georgia EPD and is protective of applicable water quality standards. The dewatering process marks a significant step towards completing the ash pond closure process and has begun at three of Georgia Power’s plants: Bowen, McDonough and McManus.
At Plant Branch, Georgia Power continues to make progress towards the closure and restoration of ash ponds with the dewatering process scheduled to begin in late January 2019. Dewatering of the ash ponds is part of the site-specific closure process at Plant Branch to completely excavate the ash ponds, then store the ash in a new, lined landfill on plant property.