Mobile Baykeeper, SELC put Alabama Power on notice for coal ash pollution at Plant Barry
MOBILE, Ala. — Today, on behalf of Mobile Baykeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center sent Alabama Power a Notice of Intent to Sue in response to the company’s plans to permanently leave more than 21 million tons of coal ash in unlined storage at Plant Barry on the banks of the Mobile River.
Located in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Plant Barry’s unlined coal ash pit was built on wetlands and sits within the floodplain of the Mobile River. For decades, coal ash at Plant Barry has been polluting groundwater with high levels of arsenic and other coal ash pollutants. Alabama Power’s decision to store millions of tons of coal ash in a pit next to the Mobile River and Delta ensures continued pollution.
The notice letter sets out violations of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Coal Combustion Residuals rule, which prohibits coal ash from being permanently stored in unlined impoundments where the ash remains in contact with water, including groundwater.
“Alabama Power’s plan to leave coal ash on the banks of the Mobile River jeopardizes so much of what makes coastal Alabama special,” said Cade Kistler, Baykeeper at Mobile Baykeeper. “The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is one of the world’s most important resources, and is vulnerable to increasing floods, severe hurricanes, and rising water levels. Leaving millions of tons of coal ash on the banks of the Mobile River is a disaster waiting to happen.”
The Mobile region is one of the rainiest areas by volume in the United States. When the Delta floods, it sends waters across the Delta down the Mobile and Tensaw rivers and into Mobile Bay. In recent years, there have been two major coal ash disasters when riverfront coal ash storage sites failed in Kingston, Tennessee (2008), and on the Dan River in North Carolina and Virginia (2014).
“It makes no sense to put the Mobile-Tensaw Delta at risk of a catastrophe,” said Barry Brock, Director of SELC’s Alabama office. “Alabama is an outlier when it comes to leaving toxic coal ash in place. This coal ash should be safely stored in a lined facility away from the river’s edge and out of the groundwater or recycled into cement and concrete – as is being done in other Southeastern states.”
Across the Southeast, other utilities are removing coal ash from unlined waterfront storage. South Carolina utilities, Duke Energy in North Carolina, and Dominion Energy in Virginia are excavating all their unlined waterfront coal ash impoundments.
Georgia Power, like Alabama Power, is owned by Southern Company – and Georgia Power is excavating approximately 65 million tons from unlined coal ash impoundments throughout the state and every unlined site in the coastal region. In June, Georgia Power announced a plan to recycle 9 million tons of coal ash into concrete at Plant Bowen.
The notice was sent to Alabama Power, the Environmental Protection Agency, Alabama state officials, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Alabama Power has 60 days to correct its violations of the coal ash storage standards set out in the national CCR rule. If the company does not eliminate those violations, SELC may file suit on behalf of Mobile Baykeeper in U.S. District Court to require compliance with the rule.
Mobile Baykeeper is a nonprofit citizens advocacy organization headquartered in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile Baykeeper is dedicated to defending and reviving the waters of Coastal Alabama and Mobile Bay, including its watershed, and the groundwaters and marshlands that are connected to these surface waters. Mobile Baykeeper has been working for more than seven years to safeguard and improve water quality in the Mobile Bay Watershed by the safe, proper disposal of coal ash in fully lined, dry landfills, or to be recycled into concrete. mobilebaykeeper.org