Groups challenge permits blessing Georgia Power’s outdated, polluting facilities

Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond sits along the banks of the Coosa River just east of the Alabama state line. (© Georgia Power)

SELC is objecting to the two Clean Water Act permits that would allow Georgia Power to continue operating its Plant Hammond and Plant McIntosh facilities without modernizing their cooling water systems. The plants’ outdated systems cause harmful thermal pollution and kill fish in the Upper Coosa and Savannah Rivers.

On behalf of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, SELC challenged the pollution discharge permit issued to Georgia Power for the Plant Hammond facility by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

SELC filed comments objecting to a similar draft permit for Georgia Power’s Plant McIntosh on behalf of Savannah Riverkeeper.

Both plants are decades old.

“EPD had an opportunity with these new permits to require modernization of the plants’ cooling water systems to minimize the ongoing harm to aquatic life in the river,” said Hutton Brown, an SELC senior attorney. “Instead, the permits preserve the status quo — which is unacceptable.”

The plants, which lack modern cooling towers, contribute to violations of water quality standards for temperature in both rivers. Excessive temperatures caused by heated water discharged from the plants can harm and kill fish, as well as fish larvae and eggs, and other aquatic and insect species.

The plants’ cooling water intake structures also harm aquatic life. The Plant Hammond intake sucks up about 260 million gallons of water from the Coosa River every day — and can draw in twice as much when operating at full capacity. The intake operates with enough force to trap fish against the intake screen and to suck fish eggs and larvae through the plant system. This can cause the death of tens of thousands of fish every year.

Alternatives to address temperature and intake issues are already in use at facilities across the Southeast with far less drastic impacts. It’s time for Georgia’s environmental regulators to hold Georgia Power to modern standards.

 

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