New Report Released on Coal Ash
National organizations released a report detailing the hazards of coal ash waste across the country. Their conclusions for Georgia? Although near the top in volume of coal ash stored, Georgia's regulations are so weak - with almost nonexistent monitoring requirements - that state regulators do not even know the risk facing our citizens.
See the full report (issued August 20, 2010) here.
Georgia and Coal Ash Disposal in Ponds and Landfills
Amount of coal ash generated per year: Over 3.1 million tons.
- Georgia’s ash ponds have a 10 times-greater spill potential than TVA Kingston spill on a volume-basis; and a 60 times-greater spill potential on an acreage basis.
- Georgia has 13 ponds which are larger in size than the Kingston pond; the largest is at Scherer which is 18.75 times larger than Kingston.
- More than half of the units deemed by EPA as “High Hazard” are in Southeast (25 sites out of 49 listed; split between NC, KY, TN, GA, AL); more than any other region in the U.S.
- 3 out of the top 4 states with most ash stored in ponds are found in Southeast. (GA, AL, KT)
The U.S. EPA has not yet gathered information on coal ash disposal in landfills, so a detailed breakdown is not yet available. However, according to a 2007 EPA risk assessment, 11 surface impoundments and landfills in Georgia are unlined. Of these sites, 10 do not have a leachate collection system and nine do not have any groundwater monitoring.
Number of coal ash ponds: There are a total of 28 ponds at 10 power plants. Of those ponds, 16 are active. The remaining ponds are inactive, of which six are inactive and covered and six are inactive and have not been covered.
Pond ratings: One pond at the Harllee Branch Power Station is rated “high hazard”.
Age of Ponds: Almost all ponds are over 30 years old. Seven of the active ponds are over 40 years old, while 2 of the active ponds are over 50 years old. Of the inactive ponds, there are five uncovered ponds over 30 years old, two ponds over 40 years old, and one over 50 years old. The age of these ponds makes it unlikely that they have safeguards like liners and leachate collection systems.
Capacity and Releases:Storage Capacity at the 28 ponds is roughly 81 million cubic yards of coal ash. Current volume at the 28 ponds (active and inactive) is roughly 50 million cubic yards of coal ash. The EPA database notes that three releases have occurred at Georgia ponds: two at Plant Bowen (a significant sinkhole failure in the pond in 2002 and a stack failure in 2008). In addition, in 2000, there was a discharge of slurry at a Harllee Branch waste pond.
Damage Cases: According to a U.S. EPA damage case assessment, proven damage cases in Georgia include an incident at Georgia Power Company's Plant Bowen: “This unlined CCW management unit was put in service in 1968. On July 28, 2002, a sinkhole developed in the (coal) ash pond of the Georgia Power Company - Plant Bowen Facility (coal-fired generating facility). The sinkhole ultimately reached four acres and a depth of thirty feet. The integrity of the ash pond dikes did not appear to be compromised. The company estimated that 2.25 million gallons of ash/water mixture was released to an unnamed tributary of the Euharlee Creek, containing 281 tons of ash. Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources alleges an unpermitted discharge of water containing approximately 80 tons of ash slurry entered Euharlee Creek through a stormwater drainage pipe resulting in a temporary degradation of public waters.”