Alabama’s Coal Ash Problem
117.3 million tons. More than 52 groundwater violations.
At Alabama Power's Plant Barry, more than 21 million tons of toxic coal ash is stored in a 600-acre unlined pit, 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. Alabama Power’s own reporting shows that they are already leaking 806% the legal limit of arsenic into our groundwater.
Coal ash dam breaches are common, devastating, and expensive. 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. Despite a $1.25 million fine (including $250,000 for violations specifically at Plant Barry) from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Power plans to leave their coal ash where it is with a band-aid measure called cap-in-place. Cap-in-place puts a liner over the top of the pit, leaving it unlined on the bottom. In Gadsden, this method has failed to stop groundwater pollution.
Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are removing their coal ash to upland, lined landfills. We need Alabama Power to do the same.
The Latest News on Coal Ash in Alabama
Four Alabama environmental organizations have released new interactive maps highlighting groundwater pollution reported by Alabama Power and Power South at coal ash pits throughout the state. Alabama Power’s federally required monitoring shows significant pollution of groundwater with arsenic, radium, and more. Pollution has persisted even after Alabama Power closed their leaking Gadsden pit using cap-in-place - the same method it plans for millions of tons of coal ash in their pits statewide.
Alabama Power currently plans to cap-in-place all their coal ash pits statewide. We at Mobile Baykeeper maintain that this is not an effective solution - and now we have Alabama Power’s own reports, as well as a maximum fine from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), to back us up.
rsenic and radium are still leaking from Plant Gadsden’s unlined coal ash pit after Alabama Power closed it using the cap-in-place method. This is the same method the utility plans to use for Plant Barry’s coal ash pit, located just 25 miles north of Mobile on the Mobile River. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) proposed the maximum fine of $250,000 for Alabama Power’s violations at Plant Gadsden.
Alabamians deserve clean water just as much as other citizens in the Southeast. Leaving toxic coal ash within a few hundred feet of a major river that is prone to severe flooding is simply nowhere near protective enough. Mobile Baykeeper will fight ardently for coal ash removal until Alabama Power commits to dig it up and move it so Mobile Bay, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, our local economy, and our communities are safe.
Mobile Baykeeper has succeeded all these years, however, because of your willingness to get involved when asked, write a check when it was needed, and speak up and get engaged on the issues that mean the most to you. We will continue to make a difference because of your continued involvement and investment in our work.
Hurricane Florence did not directly impact the Gulf Coast, but this catastrophic storm highlighted critical weaknesses of coal ash ponds in coastal areas. This summer we caught up on coal ash and explained the dangers of this toxic material including the grave dangers of having a coal ash pond in a floodplain near the coast just upstream of Mobile Bay. Today we look at the threats of coal ash pollution in a post-Florence world.
If the dam broke, it would release more than 21 million tons of toxic coal ash into the heart of the Delta, a volume 20 times larger than the oil spilled from BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster. We don’t want to see another disaster strike the Gulf Coast. Covering this leaking unlined pond near the Mobile River is irresponsible and threatens the health of our community, economy, and environment.
One of our main findings in the coal ash report was groundwater pollution at Plant Barry, located on the Mobile River in the heart of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
Our goal in this campaign is simple - we want Alabama Power to do the right thing and move the coal ash out of our water.
Mobile Baykeeper's detailed pollution report highlights coal ash pollution and dam safety concerns at Alabama Power's Plant Barry on the Mobile River