Georgia Power announced June 13 that all of the company’s 29 coal ash ponds across the state will cease operations and stop receiving coal ash within the next three years.
Additionally, the company is completely removing the ash from 16 ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers where advanced engineering methods, such as the installation of impermeable concrete barriers designed to isolate the closed pond from groundwater, may not be feasible. The ash from these ponds will either be relocated to a permitted landfill, consolidated with other closing ash ponds or recycled for beneficial use.
Approximately 50% of the coal ash Georgia Power produces today is recycled for various uses such as Portland cement, concrete, and cinder blocks. The company’s remaining 13 ash ponds will be closed in place using advanced engineering methods.
“We are aggressively working to close our ash ponds as quickly and safely as possible to meet EPA’s new standards for handling coal ash,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of environmental affairs for Georgia Power. “As part of our strategy, we are also leveraging advanced technologies and engineering practices to ensure additional measures are in place that are protective of groundwater.”
Throughout the closure process, Georgia Power said it is monitoring groundwater around all of its ash ponds and will report results to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Also, more than 500 groundwater monitoring wells will continue to operate even after the ponds are closed.
Ash pond closures are site-specific and balance multiple factors such as pond size, location, geology, and amount of material; and each closure will be certified by a team of independent, professional engineers. Additionally, the company said it must also ensure reliable electricity for customers during the significant construction work that must take place within each generating plant in order to accommodate the handling of dry ash and complete the ash pond closure process.
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.
Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity.