Drainage of GA Power’s Plant Mitchell coal ash ponds slated for February

Published on January 19, 2021 by Kim Riley

Georgia Power, the largest electric subsidiary of the investor-owned Southern Company, last week scheduled the dewatering process of three ash ponds at its Plant Mitchell for February.

The move marks another step in the utility’s ash pond closure plan for Plant Mitchell, a retired coal-fired power station near Albany, Ga. The power company, which first released plans in 2016 to excavate and reuse the plant’s stored coal ash, will drain the old ponds that hold the coal ash produced in the making of electricity and use it to be mixed with cement.

The project’s dewatering process is a beneficial reuse of coal ash, won’t pollute the environment when mixed with cement, and helps ensure groundwater quality is protected, according to Georgia Power.

“As we begin the dewatering process at Plant Mitchell, we continue to focus on safety and meeting all requirements throughout the process to fulfill our longstanding commitment to protect the environment, our local communities and water quality every step of the way,” said Mark Berry, vice president of environmental and natural resources for Georgia Power, in a statement.

Throughout the dewatering process, Georgia Power plans to provide “clear communication to our customers and the community about our progress remains a priority,” Berry added.

Roughly two million tons of stored coal ash will be removed from the existing ash ponds for reuse in cement manufacturing. Coal ash has been proven to provide value to certain products, such as concrete, by adding strength and durability.

Once the Plant Mitchell project is completed, the ash pond site will be restored as a usable property, according to Georgia Power, which currently recycles more than 85 percent of all ash and gypsum it produces from current operations for various reuses, such as to produce concrete and other construction products.

The Plant Mitchell dewatering plan has been approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and communication regarding the closure plan is provided through EPD permitting notifications, as well as on Georgia Power’s website. The ash pond closure plans also fully comply with the federal Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule and requirements of Georgia’s state CCR rule.

The state CCR rule regulates all ash ponds and landfills in Georgia and includes a comprehensive permitting program through which the EPD will approve all actions to help ensure ash pond closures are protective of water quality.

Georgia Power’s Plant Mitchell dewatering process is now under way at seven sites.