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Coal ash clean-up pending

July 23, 2015

In April 2015, Gulf Power Company shuttered the more than sixty-year old coal-fired Scholz Generating Plant, located on the banks of the Apalachicola River near Sneads in Florida’s Panhandle.  Retired and operating coal-fired plant sites all include mountains and ponds full of toxic ash, which is a by-product of generating electricity.

Coal ash ponds—which are often sited immediately adjacent to major rivers or lakes—leak and fail, sending pollutants into water communities need for drinking and other purposes.

In 2014, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy because Scholz is not in compliance with the Clean Water Act.  The facility’s unlined coal ash pond is leaking—which constitutes an unpermitted and illegal discharge—into the Apalachicola River.  In a settlement, Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company, agreed to a specific long-term coal ash clean-up plan.  This settlement adds Florida to a list of southern states working to address coal ash pollution and its long-term threats.

Is current coal ash storage in Georgia a danger to our rivers?  Given two of the nation’s largest coal ash spills in Tennessee (2008) and in the Dan River (2014), plus agreements to clean up coal ash in North Carolina and South Carolina, a plausible answer would be: yes.

-Chris Manganiello

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