Alabama Power’s ash facility closures progresses

Published 12:07 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2018

This article was submitted by Alabama NewsCenter. For more, see

Alabama Power is making measurable progress to comply with federal rules regulating the management of coal ash, with steps to safely close all its ash facilities.

The company has managed coal ash, also known as coal combustion residuals or CCRs, for decades in compliance with all regulations and continues to do so. Alabama Power is working to maintain a reliable generation fleet while conducting the closure process as efficiently as possible.

Alabama Power continues to make measurable progress toward closing ash facilities at its plants, in compliance with all regulations. Workers installing the impermeable cap system on the consolidated ash stack at Alabama Power’s Plant Gadsden in December 2017.

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Following the issuance of new rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2015, Alabama Power announced plans to close the ash facilities at six coal-fired power plants. The company expects all facilities to stop receiving ash within a year.

Alabama Power is installing state-of-the-art dry ash handling and wastewater treatment facilities designed to meet or do better than all environmental standards and replace the function of ash facilities. The company worked with professionally licensed third-party engineers to evaluate and identify the safest and most effective closure plans.

The closing of the ash facility at Plant Gadsden has been completed, while work on Plants Barry, Gaston, Gorgas, Greene County and Miller continues to move forward. Closures are site specific and involve complex processes that balance multiple factors such as plant location, size of the CCR facility and amount of material.

“Alabama Power is committed to building on its long history of complying with state and federal regulations, including following the new rules set by EPA three years ago,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power vice president of Environmental Affairs.

“In managing CCRs, as with all our operations, the safety of the customers and communities we serve is paramount,” she added. “Our employees live and work in these communities too.”

The procedure being used to close the ash facilities is called close in place, which EPA recognizes as safe and effective. It includes dewatering, capping and implementing robust flood control measures. Alabama Power also will move material away from the river and ultimately reduce a facility’s footprint by as much as half.

CCRs, including ash and gypsum, can be safely recycled for a variety of beneficial uses – such as in cement, concrete, wallboard and agricultural applications – and Alabama Power continues to make these opportunities a priority, Comensky noted. Currently, the company beneficially reuses almost half of the ash and gypsum material in those applications.

A part of the EPA’s CCR rule required Alabama Power – along with all other electric utilities across the country that manage coal ash facilities – to analyze multiple groundwater samples from around coal-fired generating plants and report the results by March 2.

Alabama Power recently completed analyzing multiple groundwater samples taken from more than 150 locations at Plants Barry, Gaston, Gorgas, Greene County and Miller.

The initial results, from a process involving experts from Alabama Power’s nationally accredited environmental lab, are available on the company’s website and have been proactively communicated to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

The testing of groundwater around the facilities will continue for 30 years, long after they are closed, in compliance with state and federal rules. Alabama Power will work with ADEM on the closure plans.

Alabama Power has a strong record of working to protect the environment and is committed to open communication with the communities it serves, said Comensky.

Overall, in the past 15 years Alabama Power has invested more than $4 billion on environmental controls at power plants, resulting in significant reductions in emissions. The company also works with a wide range of public agencies and non-profit organizations to improve wildlife habitat, protect endangered species and conserve natural resources.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, March 7 issue of the Demopolis Times.)