Public hearing to be held regarding coal-ash pond at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry

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Alabama Power is using multiple, advanced engineering technologies on top of the close-in-place methodology prescribed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company has completed closure of its Plant Gadsden ash pond. (via Alabama NewsCenter)

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is holding a public hearing regarding the coal-ash pond at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry on the Mobile River. The hearing will take place Tuesday, March 30 at 6:00 PM at the Hampton Inn in Saraland. The Mobile Baykeeper is urging citizens to attend the meeting to oppose Alabama Power’s plan to cap the ash in place and demand the ash is moved to a safer place.

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a national rule governing how coal ash is managed and stored in 2015 Alabama Today reported the Obama-era rule provides two options for closing basins: either manage coal ash by storing it in place (closed-in-place) or excavate and move the coal ash to a new location. The EPA rule, which has been preserved by the Trump Administration, recognizes that both storing in place and removing and transporting coal ash options are viable options that provide environmental benefits.

Alabama Power wants to cap the ash pit where it is, and claims they will also go beyond the 2015 minimum requirements. In 2019,  Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman told Al.com, “The new plans show the company is going “above and beyond” what is required by state and federal coal ash rules, in some cases using redundant dike systems and subterranean retaining walls that extend 30 feet below the ground to prevent contaminants in the ash from reaching rivers or groundwater.”

Mobile Baykeeper wants the removal of coal ash to upland, lined landfills and/or the recycling of the coal ash into concrete. Baykeeper is urging citizens to attend the public meeting and to also write letters to ADEM asking them to deny Alabama Power’s permit to cap the ash in place. 

Recently retired U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Richard Moore told Lagniappe this week that he doesn’t “’feel confident at all’” Alabama Power’s plans to cap in place coal ash ponds rather than excavating them will ensure public safety and environmental health.” Moore presided over the Kingston coal ash spill in Tennessee as Inspector General for the TVA. 

Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper told WKRG, “Too much is dependent on Alabama’s waterways for us to learn this lesson the hard way. The community needs to speak up and demand Alabama Power and our environmental agency do the right thing – move the ash.“