Plant Bowen

Georgia Power's Plant Bowen near Euharlee is one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the Southeast. (Doug Walker, RN-T)

Environmental groups across the state, including Rome's Coosa River Basin Initiative are reacting generally favorably Georgia Power plans to close coal ash ponds at its coal-fired generating facilities, including Plant Bowen near Cartersville.

The plan at Plant Bowen, which has a 250-acre ash disposal pond calls for the complete excavation of the basin and installation of a synthetic liner creating a new onsite storage facility which would be subject to all state and federal rules and regulations.

“Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, and mercury just to name a few. Where there is prolonged exposure, these toxins can cause cancer, heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease and much more,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, Executive Director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative.

Located on the banks of the Etowah River in Cartersville, Plant Bowen has a 250-acre pond full of this waste that we know is leaking into test wells.

“Lining this long term storage pit is the right thing to do and an encouraging step in the right direction,” he said.

The geology of the region is rather porous with a large amount of karst soil conditions across the area, which means contaminants can easily get into ground water and surface water through the soil.

"We're cautiously optimistic but we want to make sure that during all phases of the plan they are legitimately putting it in a way that it would not seep out," Demonbreun-Chapman said. "Compared to the original idea to just put a cap on these ponds, we're very pleased with this recent change.”

The CRBI chief said he has not seen any of the details related to the Georgia Power plan for storage of the ash that is excavated from the site prior to the installation of a liner.

"They haven't announced any detailed plans," Demonbreun-Chapman said.

Utility spokesman John Kraft said Georgia Power will continue to store Plant Bowen’s ash in its existing ash pond.

"As part of the closure process, we expect to temporarily move ash within the pond so that liner installation can be completed in the area from which ash was removed. Ash will then be placed back onto the lined area," Kraft said. "This process will systematically continue until all areas of the ash pond are complete."

Once plans are completed and approved, Kraft said, closure construction will begin and will take a number of years to complete.

"Georgia Power plans to complete the closure within the 15-year window specified in the rule," said Kraft..

Various volunteer groups from across the entire Etowah River basin will be conducting routine clean-ups along several stretches of the Etowah River on Saturday, including the section of river near Plant Bowen.