EPA to Reject ADEM Coal Ash Program
Black Warrior Riverkeeper has long opposed the way coal ash is stored in Alabama. Plant Gorgas in Walker County, near Parrish and Plant Greene County near Demopolis are two of the six coal ash pond sites developed by Alabama Power and regulated by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). All are the focus of an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to reject the State of Alabama's coal ash permitting plan developed by ADEM.
The EPA claims Alabama's coal ash plan falls significantly short of doing enough to protect rivers and drinking water from toxins that leach from the ponds.
“Coal ash waste has been mismanaged by Alabama Power Company for roughly 100 years and improperly regulated by ADEM for roughly 40 years, allowing contamination of groundwater, streams and rivers at Plant Gorgas, Plant Miller and Plant Greene County with toxic pollutants,” Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper stated in a written release. “We welcome EPA’s proposed denial of Alabama’s inadequate coal ash regulatory program, and hope it forces Alabama Power to properly dispose of its toxic coal ash waste away from water resources, as we’ve been encouraging them to do all along. Proper disposal of coal ash is critical to the health and success of future human and wildlife generations.”
If revocation is finalized, utilities in Alabama, including Alabama Power, would be forced to excavate and remove millions of tons of wet coal ash slurry from unlined ponds alongside rivers and streams.
Brooke points out that Alabama Power's sister utility, Georgia Power, has properly disposed of over 65 million tons of ash. Other states like Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have also required proper disposal or recycling of coal ash away from rivers.
in 2009, dumping of coal ash by the Tennesse Valley Authority (TVA) near the Perry County town of Uniontown received national news coverage when residents there complained the ash from a massive spill in Tennessee was harming their health. They filed a federal suit to stop it. The majority black town alleged environmental racism in the dumping. In that case the dumping was done with the approval of EPA and a federal court ruled against the plaintiffs.
The EPA's proposed revocation of the current Alabama plan will be the center of a public comment period, culminating in an in person hearing on September 20th, in Montgomery and a virtual hearing on September 27th.