Atlanta, Ga. – Today Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Appalachian Voices, Southern Environmental Law Center, and NC Conservation Network launched the first-ever comprehensive online tool that allows Georgians to find specific information about coal ash impoundments near them. The site, www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org, includes information on the health threats associated with this toxic waste from coal-fired power plants, safety ratings of the coal ash impoundments, and how citizens can advocate for strong federal safeguards.
Georgia is one of nine states covered by the site, which is being launched four years after a massive coal ash dam in Kingston, Tenn. catastrophically failed, letting loose a billion-gallon flood of coal ash that poisoned some 300 acres, destroyed two dozen homes and filled the Emory River with toxic sludge. The coalition developed the website to call greater attention to the lurking dangers of coal ash in the South, where nearly 450 impoundments hold roughly 118 billion gallons of the toxic waste.
“Georgia is home to 41 coal ash impoundments that are threatening our waterways. Seven of the state’s 11 plants have been rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for dam safety; all but one of these were found to pose a significant or high hazard to nearby communities and waterways,” stated Ulla Reeves with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “SoutheastCoalAsh.org offers concerned citizens a new way to learn about coal plants in their communities that may have dangerous coal ash storage impoundments.”
The site features an interactive map and database of 100 coal-fired power plants in the Southeast, color-coded by the amount of damage each would inflict if the coal ash dams were to break, according to EPA. A brief glance at the map shows just how much more work needs to be done to assess these dangers – almost half of the plants in the Southeast have inadequate data for EPA to properly assess the coal ash dams on site. Moreover, many of the plants lack adequate water monitoring data to show whether or not there are contamination problems at these sites.
Notably, of those dams that are rated in the Southeast, nearly one-third are “high hazard,” meaning that a dam failure like Kingston would likely cause fatalities. Two of Georgia Power’s facilities, Plant Branch in Milledgeville and Plant McDonough in Smyrna, have high EPA Dam Hazard ratings. In addition, Plant Scherer in Juliette has recently come under significant community criticism for suspected uranium contamination in residents’ nearby wells.
“It’s been over four years since EPA promised to properly regulate coal ash, but it remains an unregulated toxic waste largely stored in unlined holding lagoons, much to the detriment of Georgia’s drinking and recreational waters,” continued Ulla Reeves. “SoutheastCoalAsh.org provides citizens with the information and tools to communicate directly with EPA and their Congressional Representatives to ask for greater urgency in providing federal protection from toxic coal ash.”
“The website is a great resource for citizens to learn more about coal ash, where coal ash ponds are located in their watersheds, and what risks they pose,” said April Ingle, Executive Director of Georgia River Network. “The website is also a great tool for the public to gain a deeper understanding of how closely our waterways are tied to the production of energy.”
The new website features more than a dozen informational pages detailing the health and environmental hazards of coal ash as well as the current legislative and regulatory environment, active legal battles, links to additional articles, news and more. Every coal-fired power plant in the Southeast has a site-specific page, accessible from the interactive map. One click takes you deeper into the data about each plant to find out if there are any known contamination problems at the coal ash impoundment(s) on site, local action groups you can contact about that plant, as well as other local, state, and regional/federal actions citizens can take. # # #