Georgia Power continues to make progress on ash pond closure at Plant Branch

Posted by on Dec 13, 2018

Coal ash pond dewatering process to begin in late January 2019

ATLANTA, Dec. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Georgia Power continues to make progress towards the closure of ash ponds at Plant Branch with the dewatering process scheduled to begin in late January 2019. Dewatering marks a significant step towards completing the site-specific closure process at Plant Branch to completely excavate the ash ponds, then store the ash in a new, lined landfill on plant property.

Since the last megawatt was generated at Plant Branch in March 2015, the power plant and supporting facilities, including the administrative buildings, cooling towers, warehouses and machine shops have been dismantled.  The 1,000 ft tall smokestack was safely imploded, and the coal pile has been removed. Coal conveyors and pipe and cable racks were cleaned and removed. Much of the equipment was sold or repurposed, and metals were separated and recycled. Final stabilization and restoration of the primary plant site will be completed in 2019.

The ash pond dewatering plan for Plant Branch that has been approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) identifies the enhanced water treatment system, controls and monitoring that will be used during the process to ensure that the water discharged is protective of water quality standards. The planned on-site lined landfill will be permitted and regulated by the EPD. To date, the company has removed one of the five ash ponds at Plant Branch, completed engineering and feasibility studies and filed permit applications with the EPD for the remaining ash ponds at Plant Branch.

“As we begin the dewatering process at Plant Branch, we are pleased with the progress we have made on our aggressive ash pond closure process throughout the state at all of our plants,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental & Natural Resources for Georgia Power. “We continue to focus on safety and meet all compliance requirements throughout the process to fulfill our longstanding commitment to serve and protect the environment and local communities. We have invested in appropriate water treatment systems to ensure that our dewatering process is protective of the area’s lakes and rivers. Throughout the process, clear communication to our customers and the community about our progress also remains a priority.”

This updated closure plan allows the company to preserve the option to better reuse the ash in the future and maximizes the potential for future redevelopment or sale of the site. Today, more than 60 percent of the coal ash Georgia Power produces is recycled for various beneficial uses such as Portland cement, concrete and cinder blocks. Communication regarding the closure plan is provided through EPD notifications, advance public notice of permits and updates to local homeowners and local media. The updated plan also maximizes the potential for future redevelopment of the site. To read more about Plant Branch’s ash pond closure and dewatering process, click here.

Georgia Power first announced its plans to permanently close all of its ash ponds in September 2015, with initial plans released in June 2016. Today, the company announced the latest progress on its plans to safely close all 29 ash ponds at 11 active and retired coal-fired power plant sites across the state. The company is in the process of completely excavating 19 ash ponds located adjacent to lakes and rivers with the remaining 10 being closed in place using advanced engineering methods and closure technologies.

The company has now substantially completed closure construction activities for seven ash ponds at Plants Hammond, Branch, Kraft, McDonough and Yates. This includes removal of all ash from five ash ponds at Plants Branch, Kraft, McDonough and Yates. Additionally, construction activities are currently underway at multiple sites with closure construction efforts expected to be completed at four additional ash ponds at Plants McDonough, McManus and Yates in 2019.    

Last month, Georgia Power completed the submission of 29 Coal Combustion Residuals (CCRs) permit applications as required by the Georgia CCR rule for ash ponds and landfills. These permit applications outlined significant and detailed engineering information about Georgia Power’s ash pond closure plans and landfill operations plans. The permitting application process was developed and completed with significant internal and external resources supported by multiple third-party consulting and engineering firms.

In August, the company updated its ash pond closure plans for Plants Bowen and Branch, specifically to increase the number of excavated ponds at both site locations after continued engineering and analysis.

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 Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) will approve all actions to ensure ash pond closures are protective of water quality.

Ash pond closures are site-specific and balance multiple factors, such as pond size, location, geology and amount of material; and each closure is certified by a team of independent, professional engineers. In 2016, the company announced that all ash ponds will stop receiving coal ash in three years and the significant construction work necessary to accommodate the dry-handling of ash is on track to be completed in 2019.

Protecting Water Quality Throughout Ash Pond Closure Process    
Since 2016, Georgia Power has installed approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells, including 24 wells at Plant Branch, around its ash ponds and on-site landfills to actively monitor groundwater quality. Monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. The company has also engaged independent, third-party contractors for sampling and accredited independent laboratories for analysis. The company continues to post testing results on Georgia Power’s website and report them to the Georgia EPD. Based on the extensive data collected, the company has identified no risk to public health or drinking water.

Dewatering Process
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 ensure that it meets the requirements of the plant’s wastewater discharge permits approved by the Georgia EPD and is protective of applicable water quality standards. The dewatering process marks a significant step towards completing the ash pond closure process and has begun at three of Georgia Power’s plants: Bowen, McDonough and McManus, with Plant Branch scheduled to begin in late January 2019.

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 planned 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, 2017, 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 and regulations governing air, water, land, and protection of other natural resources, 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 or regulatory investigations, proceedings, or inquiries; the ability to control costs and avoid cost and schedule 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, tornadoes, 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.

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SOURCE Georgia Power

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