ATLANTA, Oct. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Georgia Power today announced the latest progress on its plan to safely close all 29 ash ponds at 11 active and retired coal-fired power plant sites across the state. The company is in the process of completely excavating 19 ash ponds with the remaining 10 being closed in place using proven engineering methods and closure technologies.
Significant closure progress has been made with extensive construction activities completed or well underway at 19 ash ponds that includes dewatering, excavation, installation of specialized engineered controls and site restoration. Detailed engineering design and early site preparation is progressing for the remaining ponds.
"As Georgia Power continues to make significant progress on our plans to safely close all of our ash ponds, our focus remains on protecting the environment and our surrounding communities," said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental and Natural Resources for Georgia Power. "As part of our ash pond closure efforts, Georgia Power is driving innovation to identify new ways to reuse coal ash that are beneficial to our customers and communities, including opportunities for recycling stored coal ash from existing ash ponds."
Progress milestones include:
- Dry-Handling of Ash: All ash ponds have stopped receiving coal ash.
- Dewatering: Now underway at six plant sites.
- Recycling: More than 85% of currently-produced ash and gypsum is recycled.
- Recycling of Stored Ash: First large-scale beneficial reuse project using stored ash in existing ash ponds underway.
- Groundwater Monitoring Wells: Expanded network now with more than 550 wells to monitor groundwater quality.
Georgia Power first announced plans to permanently close all of its ash ponds in September 2015, with initial plans released in June 2016. Georgia Power's ash pond closure plans fully comply with the federal Coal Combustion Residual (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 state rule, which goes further than the federal rule, regulates all ash ponds and landfills in the state and includes a comprehensive permitting program through which the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will approve all actions to help ensure ash pond closures are protective of water quality.
Protecting Water Quality
Since 2016, Georgia Power has installed more than 550 groundwater monitoring wells around its ash ponds and on-site landfills to actively monitor groundwater quality to help ensure the company is being protective of lakes, rivers and drinking water. In 2020 alone, there have been 1,292 groundwater samples collected and 54 groundwater reports completed.
Third-party professional engineers and geologists direct the appropriate placement of monitoring wells for Georgia Power based on site-specific geology. Independent, third-party professionals perform sampling, with analysis by accredited, independent laboratories.
Monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. The first round of testing was completed with results published in August 2016, more than 18 months ahead of federal requirements, and the company continues to post testing results on Georgia Power's website and report them to Georgia EPD.
The dewatering process marks a significant step towards completing the ash pond closure process and is now underway at six sites: Plants Bowen, McDonough, McManus, McIntosh, Branch and Yates, with plans approved by Georgia EPD for Plants Mitchell and Hammond. Georgia Power's commitment to protecting water quality of surface waters, such as lakes and rivers, includes comprehensive and customized dewatering processes during ash pond closures. The company's process treats the water to help ensure that it meets the requirements of the plant's wastewater discharge permits approved by the EPD and is protective of applicable water quality standards.
This year, Georgia Power announced plans at its retired Plant Mitchell site to remove stored coal ash for beneficial reuse, marking the first time that stored ash from existing ash ponds at sites in Georgia have been excavated for beneficial reuse as part of an ash pond closure project. Over the next several years, approximately two million tons of ash are planned to be removed from the onsite ash ponds to help create Portland cement, which is used to make concrete. Through July 2020, approximately 11,100 tons of ash have already been removed for this purpose.
Georgia Power is also requesting proposals for the beneficial reuse of coal ash stored at active and retired coal-fired power plants across the state. While Georgia Power already recycles more than 85 percent of all ash and gypsum, including more than 90 percent of fly ash, it produces from current operations, the company is seeking to identify opportunities for the beneficial reuse of stored coal ash. Today, most of the coal ash Georgia Power produces is recycled for various beneficial uses, such as Portland cement, concrete and cinder blocks. The company is committed to seeking new beneficial reuse opportunities for the coal ash stored at active and retired plants, while continuing to permanently and safely close all of its ash ponds around the state.
About Georgia Power
Georgia Power is the largest electric subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), America's premier energy company. Value, Reliability, Customer Service and Stewardship are the cornerstones of the Company's promise to 2.6 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties. Committed to delivering clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy at rates below the national average, Georgia Power maintains a diverse, innovative generation mix that includes nuclear, coal and natural gas, as well as renewables such as solar, hydroelectric and wind. Georgia Power focuses on delivering world-class service to its customers every day and the Company is consistently recognized by J.D. Power and Associates as an industry leader in customer satisfaction. For more information, visit www.GeorgiaPower.com and connect with the Company on Facebook (Facebook.com/GeorgiaPower), Twitter (Twitter.com/GeorgiaPower) and Instagram (Instagram.com/ga_power).
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Certain information contained in this release is forward-looking information based on current expectations and plans that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking information includes, among other things, statements concerning ash pond closure and ash removal plans. Georgia Power cautions that there are certain factors that can cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking information that has been provided. The reader is cautioned not to put undue reliance on this forward-looking information, which is not a guarantee of future performance and is subject to a number of uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside the control of Georgia Power; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such suggested results will be realized. The following factors, in addition to those discussed in Georgia Power's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, Georgia Power's Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2020 and subsequent securities filings, could cause actual results to differ materially from management expectations as suggested by such forward-looking information: the impact of recent and future federal and state regulatory changes, including tax, environmental, and other laws and regulations to which Georgia Power is subject, as well as changes in application of existing laws and regulations; the extent and timing of costs and legal requirements related to coal combustion residuals; current and future litigation or regulatory investigations, proceedings, or inquiries; the ability to control costs and avoid cost and schedule overruns during the development, construction and operation of facilities or other projects; advances in technology; state and federal rate regulations and the impact of pending and future rate cases and negotiations, including rate actions relating to cost recovery mechanisms; catastrophic events such as fires, earthquakes, explosions, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and other storms, droughts, pandemic health events, or other similar occurrences; and the effect of accounting procurements issued periodically by standard-setting bodies. Georgia Power expressly disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking information.
SOURCE Georgia Power