State sued over Ga. Power permits

State regulators have endangered Georgia’s drinking water and rivers by failing to re-examine outdated permits at five Georgia Power coal-fired power plants, environmental groups said in a lawsuit Thursday.

Original wastewater permits at some of the plants expired more than a decade ago and haven’t been updated to comply with tougher federal water pollution limits that went into effect a year ago, the Sierra Club and other groups said.

Their lawsuit against the Georgia Environmental Protection Division was filed in Fulton County Superior Court.

A spokesman for Georgia EPD said the agency hadn’t seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

A Georgia Power spokesman called the environmental groups’ complaint “completely false.”

“All of our plants are operating with active, valid wastewater permits, in full compliance with state regulations,” said Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft. “We actively work with Georgia EPD to renew and update (wastewater) permits for our plants as required.”

In earlier statements, Georgia Power and the environmental regulator said the permits had been "administratively extended" and are still in force. When the groups complained last year that the permits are outdated, a Georgia EPD spokesman said the agency was working on reviewing the permits, but that the process would take a "couple of years."

The environmental groups said some of the permits haven’t been updated in more than 12 years, allowing the company to discharge waste water with excessive levels of mercury, arsenic and other toxic metals into rivers and other waterways.

The groups said the permits for all of the state’s coal-fired plants are 4 to 12 years past original expiration dates.

They asked for the state agency to begin reviewing the wastewater permits at Georgia Power’s Bowen, Hammond, McIntosh, Wansley and Scherer plants.

The other environmental groups that joined in the lawsuit were the Altamaha Riverkeeper, the Coosa River Basin Initiative, and the Savannah Riverkeeper.