Georgia Power: Closing plant’s ash ponds to take 15 years

COOSA — The dewatering and closure of remaining coal ash ponds at a Georgia Power Co. plant in northwest Georgia will take 15 years to complete.

That’s what the unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. told local leaders earlier this month during a virtual tour of the dewatering process at Plant Hammond, west of Rome.

The Rome News-Tribune reported the process of extracting the water is supposed to begin in December.

Scott Hendricks, manager of water and natural resources permitting for Georgia Power, said removal of the water from the solids represents the first major step in the overall ash pond closures.

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The dewatering is slated to begin in December and will continue throughout the entire 15-year closure process.

“That does sound like a considerable amount of time, but it reflects a highly engineered and heavily overseen process,” said Dominic Weatherill, an environmental affairs officer with Georgia Power.

Each pond has a specific plan approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The removal of water from the stored coal ash has been designed and will be conducted by a contractor, Evoqua Water Technologies. Data will be posted on the Georgia Power website.

Georgia Power said it will test for water quality at three points during the process to try to avoid discharges into the neighboring Coosa River.

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“During that continuous monitoring, if those monitors detect a water quality that is lower than we desire it to be for discharge (into the Coosa River), then the system will automatically close discharge valves and not discharge that water,” Hendricks said. “It will be retained on site until it meets the standards that it needs for being discharged to the river.”

Hendricks said the dewatering system can process up to 2,000 gallons per minute.

Once the coal ash ponds are completely dewatered, remaining ash from Plant Hammond will be excavated and taken to a permitted landfill. Georgia Power wants to seal some ponds at other plants without excavating them, a move opposed by environmentalists.