ATLANTA, Aug. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --Georgia Power announced today that efforts to dewater its ash ponds are well underway, marking the next step in the safe and permanent closure of 29 ash ponds at 11 active and retired power generation sites across the state. The company's comprehensive and customized dewatering process treats the water removed from the ash ponds to ensure that it meets the requirements of each plant's wastewater discharge permits approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and is protective of applicable water quality standards.
"As we progress through our ash pond closures, protecting water quality in our state's waterways is as important to us as it is to our customers," said Aaron Mitchell, general manager of Environmental Affairs for Georgia Power. "Our ash pond closure and dewatering plans are in compliance with all environmental regulations. In addition, we have invested in appropriate water treatment systems for each location to ensure that our dewatering process is protective of Georgia's lakes and rivers."
Georgia Power's dewatering process for each site will follow a series of clearly defined steps:
Before any ash pond is dewatered, the company provides advance notice and submits an "ash pond dewatering plan" to Georgia EPD for its approval. The plan describes the dewatering process, water treatment controls and monitoring practices that will be implemented to protect water quality at that site. Once approved by Georgia EPD, this plan is posted to Georgia Power's website.
Once the Georgia EPD approves the dewatering plan and before dewatering activities begin, Georgia Power will again provide advance notice to Georgia EPD of its intent to begin dewatering and implement the requirements of the approved dewatering plan. As part of the approved dewatering plan, ash pond water goes through a treatment system operated by a qualified independent wastewater contractor. The treatment steps may include pH adjustment, clarification, filtration and more, before being discharged. Click here to view a detailed diagram illustrating a typical wastewater treatment system being employed by Georgia Power.
Monitoring and quality control is the final step and in place at every site. Independent contractors sample and independent accredited laboratories analyze both the discharged water from the pond, as well as water samples from the receiving lake or river, to document that treatment steps are effective and that water quality is being protected. These results are provided to Georgia EPD and posted to Georgia Power's website.
Ash Pond Closure Progress As part of its efforts to permanently close its ash ponds, Georgia Power is removing all coal ash from 17 ash ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers and using advanced engineering methods and technologies to close the remaining 12 ash ponds in place. The company is on track to cease operations of all its ash ponds, and complete the ongoing construction work needed to accommodate dry handling of ash at its coal-fired generation facilities, in 2019. Three ash ponds at Plants Kraft, Branch and McDonough have been completely excavated and construction activities are in progress at 8 other ash ponds.
In addition to protecting surface waters such as lakes and rivers through comprehensive and customized dewatering processes, the company is also actively monitoring groundwater quality at its facilities. Georgia Power's groundwater monitoring program includes the following elements:
Georgia Power has installed approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells around its 29 ash ponds, as well as onsite landfills, to test groundwater conditions at each plant. These wells will continue to be monitored around Georgia Power's ponds and landfills even after they are permanently closed.
Groundwater monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. Samples are collected by independent third party contractors and analyzed by accredited independent laboratories for 20 substances.
Groundwater monitoring results are provided to the Georgia EPD and posted to Georgia Power's website.
The company has collected results from five of eight rounds of groundwater testing conducted at its first phase of plants through March 2017. Testing results for this time period have been posted on Georgia Power's website and will be reported to Georgia EPD. The company expects to complete all eight rounds of background monitoring for its first phase of plants in October 2017. A complete report providing a full analysis and data interpretation of these results will be provided to Georgia EPD and posted to Georgia Power's website in January 2018.
Georgia Power delivers clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through a diverse generation mix, which includes renewable energy, such as wind and solar, along with natural gas, nuclear and coal-fired generation. Over the last five years, Georgia Power has safely retired or fuel-switched approximately 4,000 MW of coal and oil-fired generation and the company's coal-fired generation capacity is nearly half of what it was in 2005. Approximately 50 percent of the coal ash Georgia Power produces today is recycled for various uses such as Portland cement, concrete, and cinder blocks.
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 2.5 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 the method and timing of closure of coal ash ponds. Georgia Power Company cautions that there are certain factors that could 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 Company; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such suggested results will be realized. The following factors, in addition to those discussed in Georgia Power Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016, 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 environmental laws regulating emissions, discharges, and disposal to air, water, and land, and also changes in tax and other laws and regulations to which Georgia Power Company is subject, as well as changes in application of existing laws and regulations; current and future litigation, regulatory investigations, proceedings, or inquiries; the ability to control costs and avoid cost overruns during the development, construction and operation of facilities; the ability to construct facilities in accordance with the requirements of permits and licenses and to satisfy any environmental performance standards; state and federal rate regulations and the impact of pending and future rate cases and negotiations, including rate actions relating to fuel and other cost recovery mechanisms; catastrophic events such as fires, earthquakes, explosions, floods, hurricanes and other storms, droughts, pandemic health events such as influenzas, or other similar occurrences; and the effect of accounting pronouncements issued periodically by standard-setting bodies. Georgia Power Company expressly disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking information.