Alabama Power’s Coal Ash
March 27, 2018: Mobile Baykeeper Releases Pollution report showing significant dangers of coal ash at plant barry.
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.
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.