GEORGIA POWER: Georgia Power ash pond closure efforts continue across the state in 2018

Georgia Power issued the following announcement on March 2.

Georgia Power announced today 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 today's 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.

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 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.

Georgia Power has been a leader in the industry with its ash pond closure process and is making significant progress in executing the company's aggressive strategy to permanently close its ash ponds. 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.

Georgia Power remains committed to removing all coal ash from 17 ash ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers and using advanced engineering methods and technologies to close the remaining 12 ash ponds in place. The ash from all ash ponds will either be relocated to a permitted landfill, consolidated with other closing ash ponds on-site or recycled for beneficial use. Approximately 50 percent of the coal ash Georgia Power produces today is recycled for various uses such as Portland cement, concrete and cinder blocks.

Protecting Georgia's water quality includes surface waters such as lakes and rivers through comprehensive and customized dewatering processes. 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 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 electricity for customers during the significant construction work that must take place within each generating plant, including some of the nation's largest power plants at Plants Bowen and Scherer, to accommodate the handling of dry ash and complete 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.

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.

Original source can be found here.

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