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Georgia Power to begin dewatering at Plant Branch

Georgia Power today announced that the dewatering process at Plant Branch is scheduled to begin on March 4. In December, the company announced its plans to initiate the dewatering process at the plant early this year. The dewatering process marks a significant step towards completing the site-specific closure process to completely excavate the ash ponds and store the ash in a new, lined landfill on plant property.

In preparation, Georgia Power has hosted state and local officials, as well as media, on the Plant Branch site for tours and briefings to explain how the new water treatment facility will protect water quality throughout the dewatering process. Plant Branch will be the fourth location to begin dewatering, with the process already underway at three of Georgia Power's plants: Bowen, McDonoughand McManus.

The ash pond dewatering plan for Plant Branch was approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) last year and includes use of an independent, third-party accredited laboratory for on-going testing of water quality with those testing results reported to EPD and provided on Georgia Power's website. The water treatment facility operator, licensed by the Secretary of State's Board of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators, will be present onsite throughout the entire process to oversee the dewatering operations and provide real time monitoring.

"The dewatering process at Plant Branch continues our progress to safely close the ash ponds at the site and is an important part of protecting water quality every step of the way," said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental & Natural Resources for Georgia Power. "We have invested in appropriate water treatment systems and third-party accredited laboratory testing to help ensure that this process is protective of the area's lakes and rivers."

Georgia Power's commitment to protecting water quality of surface waters, such as lakes and rivers, includes comprehensive and customized dewatering processes during ash pond closures. Ongoing testing will be an integral part of the dewatering process to help ensure water quality is protected. Testing will be conducted at three points through the dewatering process:

  1. Continuous, real-time monitoring of the water as it is being treated and moves through the system to help ensure the treatment facility is operating effectively. Safeguards in place include automatic shutoff of the system so that the water is retained on site until treatment standards are met.

  2. Dewatering discharge will be sampled on a weekly basis. The samples will be collected by an independent, third-party contractor and tested by an independent, third-party accredited laboratory. These test reports will be sent to EPD and posted on Georgia Power's website. 

  3. Water samples will be taken from Lake Sinclair twice per month, upstream and downstream of the discharge. These samples will also be sent to the independent, third party accredited laboratory for testing. The test results will be reported to EPD and made available on Georgia Power's website.

To read more about Plant Branch's ash pond closure and dewatering process, click here.

Protecting Water Quality Throughout Ash Pond Closure Process  
Since 2016, Georgia Power has installed approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells around its ash ponds and on-site landfills to actively monitor groundwater quality. Monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. The company has also engaged independent, third-party contractors for sampling and accredited independent laboratories for analysis. Based on the extensive data collected, the company has identified no risk to public health or drinking water.

To date, the company has removed one of the five ash ponds at Plant Branch, completed engineering and feasibility studies and filed permit applications with EPD for the remaining ash ponds at Plant Branch. The planned on-site lined landfill will be permitted and regulated by EPD.

Georgia Power first announced its plans to permanently close all of its ash ponds in September 2015, and in June 2016 outlined plans to safely close all 29 ash ponds at 11 active and retired coal-fired power plant sites across the state. The company is in the process of completely excavating 19 ash ponds located adjacent to lakes and rivers with the remaining 10 being closed in place using advanced engineering methods and closure technologies.