What is Coal Ash?

Coal ash, the waste leftover from burning coal, is toxic. Coal ash has harmful metals, like mercury and arsenic, and other dangerous chemicals. These chemicals become even more dangerous when they enter our water supplies.

Recent disasters spilled toxic coal ash into rivers and across people’s land in the southeast. On top of these high profile spills, pollution monitoring conducted by power companies shows that these unlined pits leak and contaminate groundwater.

So now, electric utilities are moving millions of tons of this waste to lined landfills to get them out of old, leaky unlined ponds.

Read about coal ash contamination in Juliette in The Grist.

June 24, 2020 - One coal ash bill headed to Governor’s desk

June 19, 2020, Senate Committee passes coal ash drainage bill

June 18, 2020 - "Bill to discourage out-of-state coal ash import clears major committee hurdle".

Take action on our online action site, Protect Georgia.

Map of coal ash storage from coal-fired utilities in Georgia, December 2018. Please send additions or corrections to [email protected]

Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Report on groundwater contamination from toxic coal ash ponds in Georgia.

Report on groundwater contamination at utility-owned coal ash ponds in Georgia.

https://earthjustice.org/features/coal-ash-contamination-georgia-groundwater

Georgia Coal Ash Legislation Rundown

Time is running out to move important coal ash legislation at the Georgia General Assembly that will protect Georgian’s drinking water. We need to tell our elected officials to pass these important bills before March 12--we cannot afford to sit back any longer while this waste contaminates our waterways.

Coal ash is the residue left behind after burning coal and it is toxic--it can contain lead, selenium, arsenic and more. Much of Georgia’s coal ash is stored in pits around coal-fired power plants owned by Georgia Power. These pits are unlined and recent research indicates that the toxins in coal ash are leaking into the well water of nearby communities and triggering serious health problems. Unfortunately, Georgia Power does not plan to line  these coal ash storage facilities that will permanently be left in our groundwater, and which will likely lead to future contamination.

 

Coal ash is also imported from out of state and stored in six solid waste landfills. This influx of out-of-state coal ash is encouraged by low surcharge fees.

 

The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC)  is a state-wide coalition of organizations working to protect Georgia’s water. Our coalition has a long history of working to keep toxins from coal ash out of our wells, rivers, lakes and streams. We believe all coal ash should be stored in a dry state with a liner and a cap away from waterways.  Below we share our position on the status of the mansy coal ash bills now under consideration in Georgia’s 2019-2020 legislative session.

 

House Bills
HB 93 by Rep. Rick Williams would require public notice when Georgia Power drains coal ash pits. Unfortunately, many coal ash pits have already been drained but this bill would still provide important information to communities in places where drainage is still happening or when rainfall fills up previously drained ponds.
GWC position: Support

 

HB 756 by Rep. Bob Trammell would require a liner on any facility storing coal ash. It is likely that EPD will begin permitting unlined coal ash storage facilities in the state in 2020 so this legislation is critical in 2020.  This bill is very similar to SB 297 in the Senate.
GWC position: Strong Support

 

HB 929 by Rep. Vance Smith would require monitoring and reporting around coal ash pits for 30 years. This requirement (minus the Executive Summary required in reporting) already exists in current federal law. But if federal law is rolled back this legislation would ensure monitoring continues.

 

HB 959 by Rep. Steven Meeks would raise the fee on coal ash being dumped in landfills from $1/ton to $2.50/ton. This would effectively close a loophole created in 2018 that left the surcharge for coal ash lower than household garbage encouraging importation of out-of-state coal ash. It is similar to SB 123 but does not currently include a provision that removes restrictions on how local governments can spend income created by landfill fees.
GWC position: Support

 

HB 1062 by Rep. Steven Meeks would prohibit coal ash landfills near Georgia blackwater rivers. This bill is very similar to SB 384.
GWC position: Support

 

Senate Bills
SB 123 by Sen. William Ligon would close a coal ash loophole that is encouraging out-of-state coal ash dumping in Georgia solid waste landfills. The bill would raise the surcharge that local governments can charge per ton of coal ash from $1 to $2.50, in line with the surcharge on regular household garbage. It would also lift a restriction on how local governments can spend income from the surcharge.
GWC position: Strong Support

 

SB 384 by Sen. William Ligon would prohibit coal ash landfills near Georgia blackwater rivers. This bill is very similar to HB 1062.

GWC Position: Support

 

SB 297 by Sen. Jen Jordan would require a liner on any facility storing coal ash.  It is likely that EPD will begin permitting unlined coal ash storage facilities in the state in 2020 so this legislation is critical in 2020. This bill is very similar to HB 756 in the Senate.
GWC Position: Strong Support

If you would like to contact a representative of the Georgia Water Coalition with questions about coal ash, contact:

Jennette Gayer, Environment Georgia, 404-370-1764