June 23, 2021

Letter To The Editor: Our water is worth protecting

To Whom It May Concern:

Growing up near Centralhatchee, Plant Wansley’s stacks were a familiar part of the landscape.

It didn’t occur to me to wonder about the coal ash stored there until I moved to middle Georgia and witnessed the nearby town of Juliette’s battle against contamination in local residents’ wells.

Last year Juliette residents sued because of the health effects the rural community faces from Plant Scherer’s contamination of their wells.

In Milledgeville, where I live now, residents pressured the local government and our state representative to urge Georgia Power to move Plant Branch’s coal ash to a lined pit after the plant closed down in 2015.

Rather than accept the cheaper option that would’ve left Lake Sinclair and the local water supply vulnerable to coal ash pollution, the community demanded Georgia Power take responsibility for cleaning it up.

However, this step hasn’t been taken for all the locations around Georgia. Once coal ash became federally regulated, Georgia Power bought up 55 acres near Plant Wansley, as well as hundreds of acres of property near other plants in the state.

Residents fear that the land-buying spree is a way to avoid taking responsibility for protecting the water sources of Georgians.

This year Georgia’s Environmental Protection division will decide if Georgia Power takes the responsibility to protect communities by moving coal ash into lined storage pits.

Even though the Public Service Commission approved putting the costs of cleanup onto customers, Georgia Power wants to do it the cheap way: a cap-in-place strategy, which would leave no protective layer between the coal ash and the groundwater reserves below.

But as the residents of Milledgeville and Baldwin County showed, coming together can make a difference.

The Sierra Club of Georgia wants to tell the story of everyday people who’ve been impacted by coal ash or who want to urge the EPD to protect their water supplies from coal ash.

Advocates have been raising the alarm about the risks to humans and the local environment for years, and the clock is ticking.

That’s why I decided to share my story about the questions I have about the impacts of the unsafe levels of cobalt, boron, lithium, radium, and sulfate detected in the groundwater at Plant Wansley.

These chemicals are linked with a variety of health issues, and some are especially dangerous for children.

Because there’s been no community monitoring, there’s no way to know the extent to which these chemicals impacted the water my family drew from a well until they switched to municipal water in the late nineties.

This is why Georgia Power must take every precaution to excavate the coal ash ponds and move the waste to lined storage units. Our water quality depends on it.

If you’d like to share your story or send a message to the EPD to deny the inadequate cap-in-place permits, please reach out to me at jessicamcquain94@gmail.com.

Jessica McQuain (HCHS Class of 2012)

 

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