While the Senate works to destroy Obamacare, other trouble is brewing in Georgia. The Sierra Club plans to sue Georgia Power over the company’s process for closing coal ash ponds, potentially draining toxic coal ash into local waterways. The environmental watchdog group is saying this is a violation of the Clean Water Act.
Coal ash or coal combustion residuals (CCRs) are the toxic byproduct of burning coal at coal-powered power plants. Coal ash contains heavy metals, like mercury and lead, which can get into the local drinking supply and local wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency began regulating coal ash in 2014, after devastating coal ash spills occurred when ponds containing the toxic wastewater failed, releasing large quantities of coal ash into the local environment.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to drain millions of gallons of coal ash wastewater into waterways without making certain there’s no risk to communities who fish, swim, and drink from these waters,” said Stephen Stetson of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in a press release.
“And the company should also be transparent about how they’ll ensure our waterways are safe for Georgia’s families, children and environment,” he added.
Last year, Georgia Power released a plan to close all its coal ash ponds, 29 in total across the state. The three year plan would involve eliminating some of the ponds — which have historically been unlined pits — and closing some of the others in place.
However, the company plans to drain 11 of the ponds into local waterways (called dewatering), and Sierra Club contends they need to go through a permitting process before attempting to drain the ponds without any monitoring or accountability.
As the press release notes:
Georgia Power has stored toxic coal ash in multiple, unlined ponds for decades and now plans to close them. As part of that process, the utility proposes to drain wastewater from these ponds into Georgia’s lakes and rivers, despite not having valid permits allowing such pollution.
Georgia Power representative Jacob Hawkins told Savannah Now, “Georgia Power is in full compliance with all environmental regulations, which are enforced by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and we will vigorously defend against any allegation to the contrary.”