Last time we began looking at Georgia Power’s recent release of its plans to close a number of coal ash ponds. As we noted, the safety measures surrounding these closures have since generated concerns about the safety of the company’s plans.
According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, Georgia Power’s closure plans are not being disclosed in a way that would allow the public to understand the long-term safety implications. Environmental groups are particularly concerned about the possibility of toxins leaking into the ground from unlined coal ash pits.
Twelve of the 29 coal ash pond closures will be “closed in place,” meaning that the company will leave the coal ash on site and implement measures to prevent leakage, such as pouring concrete on top to prevent lateral movement of waste material. It is the legitimacy of these planned “containment” efforts that is called into question by environmentalists.
Critics say that the only way to ensure leakage will not occur is to move coal ash to lined pits that are not near waterways and groundwater. This is not only because of the ordinary risk of leakage, but also because of the possibility of catastrophic events like flooding, earthquakes, and underground erosion, which could trigger the release of toxins.
Related to all this is that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division voted late last month on proposed amendments to the state’s solid waste disposal rules, which include the regulation of coal ash disposal. In our next post, we’ll look at how the agency ruled on this matter.