Coal Ash

Above: Wastewater is discharged from Plant Barry's permitted outfall into the Mobile River.

WHY ARE WE INVOLVED IN This Issue?

Our mission is to protect the beauty, health, and heritage of the Mobile Bay Watershed and our coastal communities. As described below, coal ash poses a major threat to the Mobile River, Tensaw-Delta and the health of our communities.

At Alabama Power's Plant Barry, more than 16 million tons of toxic coal ash is stored in a 600-acre pond adjacent to the Mobile River where the ash sits in an unlined pit, potentially allowing toxic chemicals to contaminate groundwater and seep into the Mobile River. Toxic pollutants commonly found in coal ash include heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, selenium, chromium, and lead.

Because of Plant Barry's location directly on the Mobile River in the middle of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the coal ash stored there threatens nearby communities and our way of life - swimming, fishing, hunting, and boating on these waters. Unsafe containment of coal ash can also affect our economy; industries such as seafood, tourism, and real estate rely on clean water to be successful. 


Above: The aftermath of the 2008 TVA Coal Ash Spill in Kingston, TN, one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history. Photo - J. Miles Carey/Knoxville News Sentinel, via Associated Press

What is coal ash?

Coal ash is the toxic waste that remains after coal is burned. It contains high concentrations of heavy metals, including mercury, arsenic, selenium, chromium, and lead which are hazardous to human health, wildlife, and waterways near coal ash ponds. 

At Plant Barry, the ash is collected and then transported to a massive coal ash pond. There the toxins in coal ash essentially dissolve into the water they are mixed with. This toxin-filled water sits behind an earthen dam where it can potentially leak into groundwater, or seep into nearby waterways. In addition, there is a potential for catastrophic spills such as those seen at coal ash ponds in Kingston, Tennessee and on the Dan River in North Carolina. 

 

LEARN MORE GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT COAL ASH AND ITS IMPACT ON HUMAN HEALTH HERE.