GA Power to drain Plant Mitchell coal ash ponds

GA Power to drain Plant Mitchell coal ash ponds
This is a 2020 aerial view of Plant Mitchell (Source: Google Maps)

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The Georgia Power Company will drain old ponds that hold coal ash produced in the making of electricity, and use the ash to be mixed with Portland cement. Plant Mitchell, south of Albany, has about two million tons of stored coal ash.

In 2009, the plant began transitioning from coal-powered generation to bio-fuel generation, using wood chips instead of coal.

The process is called ‘dewatering’ and is scheduled to begin in February. The company says this is a beneficial reuse of the coal ash and being mixed with cement won’t pollute the environment.

Dewatering marks a significant step towards completing the Plant Mitchell closure process, and helps ensure groundwater quality is protected.

This 2018 view of the plant shows a smokestack that was demolished.
This 2018 view of the plant shows a smokestack that was demolished. (Source: WALB)

“As we begin the dewatering process at Plant Mitchell, we continue to focus on safety and meeting all requirements throughout the process to fulfill our longstanding commitment to protect the environment, our local communities and water quality every step of the way,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental & Natural Resources for Georgia Power. “Throughout the process, clear communication to our customers and the community about our progress remains a priority.”

The project at Plant Mitchell marks the first time that stored ash from existing ash ponds at sites in Georgia will be excavated for beneficial reuse as part of an ash pond closure project.

Today, the company already recycles more than 85 percent of all ash and gypsum, including more than 95 percent of fly ash, it produces from current operations for various beneficial reuses such as concrete production as well as other construction products.

The ash pond dewatering plan for Plant Mitchell has been approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and describes the water treatment system, controls and monitoring that will be used during the process to help ensure that the water discharged is protective of water quality standards. The planned onsite closure methods are being permitted and regulated by the EPD.

Communication regarding the closure plan is provided through EPD permitting notifications as well as posting on Georgia Power’s website. To read more about Plant Mitchell’s ash pond closure and dewatering process, click here.

A 2009 view of the electrical grid at Plant Mitchell
A 2009 view of the electrical grid at Plant Mitchell

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 Residuals (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 EPD 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 onsite landfills to actively monitor groundwater quality to help ensure the company is being protective of lakes, rivers and drinking water. In 2020 alone, there were 1,292 groundwater samples collected and 54 groundwater reports completed. Monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations.

Dewatering Process

The dewatering process is now underway at seven sites: Plants Bowen, Hammond, McDonough, McManus, McIntosh, Branch, and Yates. 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.

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