Georgia Power estimates it has about 86 million tons statewide of coal ash cleanup. As electric companies have stored their ash – which can contain arsenic, lead and mercury – mixed with water in big open ponds, but that’s starting to change. As a result of the (WIIN) Water Infrastructures Improvement Acts & EPA’s Coal Ash Rule that was created by the Federal government. Georgia Power is closing all of its coal ash ponds and will store its ash dry and covered, which should lead to less risk of spills and leaks. A couple of bills in the state Legislature that would require more stringent coal-ash-handling laws in Georgia were stalled last year. The state lawmaker behind them, Republican Rep. Jeff Jones from Brunswick, said he hopes something will pass this year.
Moreover, the new rule establishes groundwater-monitoring requirements for many coal ash impoundments and landfill sites, including corrective action requirements for some dangerous pollutants. By January 31, 2018, owners and operators will be subject to reporting requirements for their groundwater monitoring and corrective action programs.
This information could be valuable for state agencies and advocates to hold utilities accountable for polluting ground and surface waters. Coal ash poses significant threats to waterways and communities across the country, but particularly here in the Southeast where we have a disproportionately high number of sites. For decades, the public and environment were completely unprotected from these dangers with major gaps in oversight and regulation at both the state and federal levels.
‘There are a lot of words used to describe both coal ash waste and the ways in which it is stored. Coal ash is also called “coal combustion waste” (CCW) and “coal combustion residuals” (CCR). Wet coal ash impoundments are frequently known as “ponds,” “lagoons,” or “surface impoundments.”Georgia Power has begun that process at a power plant in metro Atlanta. Congress passed and the Obama Administration approved the “Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. Congress passed and the Obama Administration approved the “Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act” (WIIN) in late 2016. WIIN amends the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve state coal ash permit programs that operate in lieu of the 2014 federal coal combustion residuals rule (CCR or coal ash rule). WIIN provides EPA with its first-ever enforcement authority over the requirements of its coal ash rule.’
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve state coal ash permit programs that operate in lieu of the 2014 federal coal combustion residuals rule (CCR or coal ash rule). WIIN provides EPA with its first-ever enforcement authority over the requirements of its coal ash rule. The rule also creates location restrictions for where new impoundments can be sited and establish closure requirements if existing sites do not meet these requirements. This aspect of the rule could protect sensitive wetlands and aquifers from coal ash pollution and protect communities from the dangers of sitting coal ash impoundments in unstable areas. According to environmentalists, “The new rule requires “closure” of unlined coal ash impoundments if they exceed certain pollution limits, and requires all ponds at active power plants to meet safety and location requirements or face closure. These requirements are strong when triggered and could lead to the eventual closure of some of the worst and most dangerous coal ash containment sites”.
Sarah Elizabeth Bash is an artist and writer from Golden Isles area of Georgia. Sarah writes on local and state arena in all areas such as sports, arts and culture, politics, education and environmental topics.