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Dec. 20 - New Report on Georgia’s Coal Ash Ponds and Landfills Shows Groundwater Contamination

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

December 20, 2018 - A report by environmental law organization Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project shows “severe pollution,” and groundwater contamination around both active and emptied coal ash ponds and landfills throughout the state. The report cites groundwater monitoring data from Georgia Power, which was made publicly available after new coal ash regulations, as evidence.

In the Savannah River watershed, two plants, Plant Mcintosh near Rincon and the Plant Kraft Landfill in Port Wentworth, show high enough levels of contamination to make nearby groundwater unsafe. The investigation found levels far exceeding safe thresholds of toxic pollutants boron, arsenic, cobalt, and lithium in the groundwater surrounding Ash Pond 1 at the Plant Mcintosh facility; and elevated levels of calcium, fluoride, total dissolved solids, boron and chloride in the groundwater adjacent to Landfill 4 at the Plant Mcintosh. At Plant Kraft, levels exceeding safe thresholds of arsenic, cobalt, lithium, radium, and sulfate were found.

The contamination includes known carcinogens and other hazardous substances, making groundwater unsafe for human use and consumption, and can cause harm to adjacent waterways and wildlife. While both of these plants have either removed coal ash from their ponds or landfills, or have plans to do so before closure, the existing groundwater contamination by heavy metals must still be remediated, and further contamination prevented, for the safety of the citizens and our water resources.

“Georgia Power has disposed of tons of coal ash waste for decades with little to no oversight, and the state’s proposed new coal ash rules lack the teeth to enforce utilities’ cleanup of leaking and unlined ponds,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus. “These rules are not enough to protect our drinking water sources; we need better regulation and protections to ensure their safety.”

According to Savannah Riverkeeper, Plant Mcintosh is a repeat offender on water quality issues. The organization’s concerns extend beyond the coal ash contamination to issues with their cooling water outfall permit. The plant is is seeking a greater temperature change, which could negatively affect the spawning of anadromous fish and other wildlife in the Savannah River.

The full report shows pollution at 11 out of Georgia’s 12 coal-fired power plants. The findings from Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project can be found here:

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