When you turn on the faucets in your home to get some water, take a shower or wash your hands, it looks clear and safe. When you want to spend some time on or in Georgia's waterways, you expect them to be free from pollutants that could harm you.
Unfortunately, a new study indicates that may not be the case. Toxic pollutants are leaking into the groundwater from 11 out of 12 of the state's coal ash dumping grounds. That's 92% of the state's coal-fired power plants. The state's public utility, Georgia Power, owns and runs 10 of the 11 plants in question.
The 2015 Environmental Protection Agency coal-ash regulations
The reason researchers know about the contamination resides in the passage of coal-ash regulations by the EPA back in 2015. Those rules require power companies to release information regarding their monitoring data regarding groundwater. The regulations also require the following:
- Revealing coal ash ponds actually in the groundwater
- Building disposal sites no less than five feet above groundwater
- Avoiding any underground connections that could cause leaks into the groundwater
Over the last three years, Georgia Power has failed to comply with the EPA's regulations on this matter.
Why does it matter?
Burning coal produces a by-product called coal ash. It contains several toxic chemicals and substances such as cadmium, arsenic, chromium, boron, lead, selenium and radium, among others. The information released by Georgia Power in 2018 indicates that cobalt, arsenic, radium, boron and molybdenum from its coal ash ponds contaminate the groundwater.
No government agency has tested the drinking water wells near these contaminated sites to determine the extent of the problem. At last report, Georgia Power expressed its intentions to leave things as they are. In fact, the company wants oversight to shift from the federal government to the state government, ostensibly to avoid the reporting requirements of the EPA. The adverse health effects these toxic pollutants can cause include brain damage in children, reproductive issues, stroke, heart disease and cancer.
What can you do if you get sick?
If you suffer from any of the harmful effects of groundwater contamination cited above, you may want to investigate whether your condition resulted from the leaking coal ash ponds. If it turns out a connection exists, taking legal action may be the appropriate next step.