Coal ash at Plant Hammond

In this November 2017 photo, coal ash removal continues at Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond near Coosa.

ATLANTA — Georgia Power Co. has launched a plan to reuse coal ash from 29 ash ponds around the state it is in the process of closing.

The Atlanta-based utility announced Wednesday it has released a request for proposals on ways to reuse ash stored at 11 active and retired coal-fired power plants across the state, including Plant Hammond in Rome.

Georgia Power already recycles more than 75% of the dry coal it produces as a byproduct of its current operations but is looking to do more.

“The request for proposals will allow Georgia Power the potential to expand our efforts in the recycling of coal ash, while continuing to permanently and safely close all of our ash ponds,” said Mark Berry, the utility’s vice president of environmental and natural resources.

“Today, most of the coal ash Georgia Power produces is recycled for various beneficial uses, such as Portland cement, concrete and cinder blocks, and we are committed to seeking new beneficial reuse opportunities for the coal ash stored at our active and retired plants.”

Georgia Power unveiled a plan in 2015 to spend $1.5 billion to $2 billion to close all of its coal ash ponds to meet new federal regulations for handling coal ash. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got involved in the issue in response to a 2008 spill of 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash at a plant near Kingston, Tennessee, that smothered about 300 acres of land.

Under the Georgia Power plan, which the company updated in 2018, 19 of the ash ponds are slated for excavation and closure, including all ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers. The remaining 10 ponds will be closed in place using advanced engineering methods and closure technologies.

The RFP announced Wednesday contemplates reusing ash both from excavated ponds and from ponds closed in place.

Environmental groups have called on Georgia Power to dig up all of the ponds due to be closed and not leave any in place.

A report several groups released in December 2018 found coal ash was leaking into groundwater supplies at 10 of Georgia Power’s coal plants. The report warned contamination of the groundwater would only get worse unless the coal ash is removed.

On Wednesday, Georgia Power defended its ash pond closure plan as in full compliance both with federal rules and more stringent state requirements.

Bidders interested in the RFP must get a pre-qualification questionnaire from Georgia Power and submit their information by Jan. 24.

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