Coal Ash Threatens our Coast
Unlined ponds allow coal ash contaminates to infiltrate through soil into our groundwater supplies. Like we’ve seen in Juliette and Forsyth, Georgia, infiltration can cause private wells to becontaminated with heavy metals and carcinogens —leading to serious implications for public health and private property values. Meanwhile, surface waters like rivers and streams are contaminated when coal ash ponds are dewatered (emptied) prematurely or spill. Many of these ponds were built near rivers in order to allow for dewatering. Recent hurricanes and flooding have spilled toxic coal ash into rivers and across people’s land in the southeast, including Hurricane Florence in 2018, which spilled coal ash from Duke Energy’s Goldsboro, NC, plant into the Neuse River.
We’re working to safeguard our communities.
There are 12 coal-fired power plants in Georgia, all with coal ash ponds on site. 11 of the 12 plants have contaminated groundwater with one or more toxic pollutants; ten of these are owned by Georgia Power. Plant McManus in Brunswick did have unlined ponds but will be excavated under the final rules from the EPA, which require all unlined coal ash ponds to be closed (i.e. excavated, retrofitted, or capped in place), even when contamination is not detected.
Fortunately, Georgia Power plans to excavate all coal ash ponds along the coast. The waste can be recycled into products like cement or can be sent to landfills. While this process is underway, One Hundred Miles is continuing to advocate for state laws (such as House Bill 93) that will improve the transparency of the decommissioning process. And we’re working with our Georgia Water Coalition partners to hold power companies accountable for handling coal ash waste properly.
In 2020, OHM advocated in support of SB 123 at the General Assembly. This bill successfully closed a dangerous loophole that had limited landfill fees for coal ash to just $1/ton, less than household garbage. SB 123 raised the coal ash fee to $2.50/ton, to be in line with household garbage, and made changes that give communities more flexibility in spending the revenue from this surcharge. These changes will prevent Georgia from becoming the Southeast’s dumping ground for out-of-state coal ash.
You can help.
Ensuring that coal ash is handled properly throughout the pond closure process will take advocates from across the state. Though the coastal ponds are being excavated, we can all provide comments to the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) as they consider closure plans for coal ash ponds across the state. These comments show the EPD that Georgian’s care about the issue and expect polluters be held accountable for cleaning up contamination that threatens our public resources. One Hundred Miles will continue to keep you updated as opportunities for public comment arise.
And of course, we can all do our part to limit coal ash waste by conserving electricity and relying on renewable energy sources when possible.
Coal Ash in the News
NPR: Political Rewind | 2/24/23
GPB | 8/7/20
The Brunswick News | 7/24/20
WABE | 8/5/19
“Ensuring that our natural resources are protected throughout the coal ash pond closure process will take advocates from across the state.”
Contact Alex for more information about OHM’s work to protect our coast from toxic coal ash—and how you can make your voice heard.