Coal power plant waste monitoring bill passes Georgia House

A Georgia Power coal ash pond is seen in this 2011 file photo. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)
A Georgia Power coal ash pond is seen in this 2011 file photo. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)

Georgia Power would be required to monitor groundwater for 50 years near waste produced by coal plants, according to a bill the state House approved Friday.

The legislation drew broad support, passing on a 161-2 vote, but several representatives said they were disappointed that the measure wouldn’t do more to protect communities from the harms of potential water contamination.

The bill follows concerns in Juliette, where residents of the Middle Georgia town say they’re afraid to drink water near coal ash stored at Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer.

House Bill 647 would require public reports on the results of coal ash testing and any corrective action taken.

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Several legislators said they want requirements for coal ash to be contained within liners, similar to landfills, to reduce the risk of water contamination.

“With no liner, these toxic substances can seep in to the groundwater or flow into rivers and streams and cause disastrous water damage issues,” said state Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City.

State Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, said the Georgia Environmental Protection Division can require liners when needed.

“We are absolutely concerned with the property owners around these” coal ash ponds, Barr said. “We defer to the expertise and engineering of EPD, and this bill in no way restricts them if they desire to put in lined landfills.”

The legislation will next be considered by the state Senate.

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