Alabama Power announces inadequate preliminary coal ash closure plans

With many of Alabama's public drinking water intakes located downstream from or near coal ash storage sites, it is crucial that utilities and state agencies address the risks these impoundments pose to public health and the environment by moving the ash to dry, lined storage.  (© Jovian Sackett/SELC)

Alabama Power Company has announced details for its preliminary coal ash closure plans, proposing to leave behind the ash at all six of its coal plants throughout the state.

Although the utility stated last October it would close its coal ash storage ponds to comply with federal coal ash regulations, Alabama Power did not publicly release details of those closure plans until this week in order to meet the disclosure deadline under the federal rules.

“Alabama Power’s proposal to cap its ash ponds in place is extremely disappointing—cap in place does not stop or clean up pollution, nor does it protect the people of Alabama,” said Keith Johnston, Managing Attorney of SELC’s Birmingham office. “We have already seen this at both of TVA's northern Alabama sites, where pollutants that are also common coal ash indicators have been detected in the groundwater.”

In contrast to Alabama Power’s plans, other utilities in the Southeast are now excavating over 70 million tons of coal ash to dry, lined storage or recycling it for concrete.

Utilities that have done the appropriate analysis and excavated ash, such as SCE&G in South Carolina, have documented dramatic drops in groundwater contamination.  As a result of excavation and removal to dry lined storage by SCE&G at its Wateree plant near Columbia, arsenic groundwater contamination has plummeted by over 90 percent.

“These utilities are setting a standard for responsible handling of coal ash, which is the standard that Alabama Power can and should follow,” said Johnston. “As communities across the state face the prospect of having coal ash left submerged in groundwater and sitting in unlined pits next to rivers, lakes, and drinking water supplies, we urge Alabama Power to review its decision and excavate its ash to dry, lined storage.”

Read more about Alabama Power’s closure plans on AL.com: “Alabama Power plans to cap coal ash ponds in place; environmental groups urge removal”

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