Toxic chemicals, storm water runoff, and waste product abounds. And finally enough to push Georgia Power to close their 29 coal ash ponds around the State of Georgia, including Plant Hammond in Coosa.
The company announced Tuesday their latest progress in the $2 billion project that’s expected to wrap up over the next three years. Part of the plan includes:
- Completely closing all 29 ponds
- Removing ash from 17 of the ponds currently in place where the ash is adjacent to lakes and rivers
- Installing concrete barriers designed to restrict the free flow of coal ash
- Relocating ash to landfills
- Using the ash for recycling projects like cement, concrete, and cinder blocks
Coal ash is what’s left after coal is burned. It’s rich with heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, selenium, barium, boron, cobalt, manganese, thallium and zinc – many of which are toxic to humans. Companies tend to store the product in water on a disposal site to prevent its movement, however, the coal ash is comprised of several different components include fly ash and residue from the furnace-like structure. The EPA reports that every year, 140 million tons of coal ash is generated. It’s currently the second largest industrial waste product in the United States.
“If eaten, drunk or inhaled, these toxicants can cause cancer and nervous system impacts such as cognitive deficits, developmental delays and behavior problems,” according to the United States Affiliate of International Physicians website. “They can also cause heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, birth defects and impaired bone growth in children.”
Georgia Power says it is monitoring the groundwater locations as they work to close the coal ash ponds. They’re in constant communication with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.