Media release: Georgia Power announced today updated, site-specific closure plans for ash ponds at Plants Branch and Bowen as part of its efforts to safely and permanently close 29 ash ponds at 11 current and former coal-fired power plants across the state. Based on continued engineering and analysis, the company has increased the total number of ash ponds to be completely excavated to 19 from 17, including all ash ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers, with the remaining 10 being closed in place using advanced engineering methods and closure technologies.
“Permanently closing our ash ponds is about more than compliance for Georgia Power, it’s about a persistent focus on making the best decisions for our customers, at each individual site and for our neighboring communities,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental & Natural Resources for Georgia Power. “Our multiyear 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 state and federal requirements.”
Georgia Power first announced its intention to permanently close all of its ash ponds in September 2015, with initial plans released in June 2016 including the complete removal of ash from 16 of 29 ash ponds. Throughout the closure process, the company has remained dedicated to protecting water quality and the state’s waterways by making, and refining, site-specific closure decisions that balance multiple factors such as pond size, location, geology and amount of material. The company is meeting or exceeding all regulations regarding ash ponds and landfills in the state, and adhering to a comprehensive permitting program through which the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) approves actions related to ash pond closures. Each closure will also be certified by independent, professional engineers.
At Plant Branch, near Milledgeville, the company plans to completely excavate the ash ponds onsite, then store the ash in a new, lined landfill on plant property. The planned landfill will be fully permitted and regulated by Georgia EPD. This updated closure plan allows the company to preserve the option to better recycle the ash in the future and maximizes the potential for future redevelopment or sale of the site. More than 60 percent of the coal ash Georgia Power produces today is recycled for various beneficial uses such as Portland cement, concrete and cinder blocks.
At Plant Bowen, near Cartersville, the company has completed a thorough study of the site and its 250-acre ash pond, including local geology and closure logistics. Based on this updated evaluation, the company plans to permanently close the ash pond by excavating the ash and installing a synthetic liner to create a new, lined ash storage facility onsite that will be fully permitted and regulated by Georgia EPD.
Ash pond closure processes continue to progress at all other Georgia Power properties. As of August 2018, the company 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.
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 the 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 the water quality of surface waters, such as lakes and rivers, includes comprehensive and customized dewatering processes during ash pond closures. As announced in August 2017, Georgia Power’s efforts to dewater its ash ponds are well underway and, similar to the process in place for groundwater monitoring, results are posted to Georgia Power’s website and reported to the Georgia EPD. The company’s dewatering process treats the water removed from the ash ponds to ensure that it meets or exceeds the requirements of each plant’s wastewater discharge permits approved by the Georgia EPD and is protective of applicable water quality standards. Read more here.
Ensuring Reliable Energy Throughout Ash Pond Closure Process
The company continues to work to ensure reliable electric service for customers during the significant construction activity that must take place at each coal-fired generating plant to accommodate the handling of dry ash while also completing the ash pond closure process. These efforts include conducting work when the plants are on planned outages or as customer demand allows operations to accommodate the work. 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.
Georgia Power delivers clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through a diverse generation mix, which includes renewable energy, such as wind and solar, along with natural gas, nuclear and coal-fired generation. Over the last five years, Georgia Power has safely retired or fuel-switched approximately 4,000 MW of coal and oil-fired generation and the company’s coal-fired generation capacity is nearly half of what it was in 2005.