‘It’s not good for you’: Deeper look at Juliette well water test results

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JULIETTE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Juliette residents say they’re facing a water contamination crisis. Residents and water advocates are blaming Georgia Power by saying its ash pond is polluting residents’ drinking water. 

However, Georgia Power says its meeting all federal drinking water standards.

Monroe County commissioners and the Altamaha Riverkeeper are testing drinking water wells in Juliette. The results show high levels of toxins.

Riverkeeper says toxins are coming from Plant Scherer’s ash pond.

Georgia Power is closing all of the ash ponds after the government forced the closures. However, residents say they fear there’s no end in sight for the water crisis because of Georgia Power’s plans.

Mike Pless and his family have called Juliette home for more than 20 years.

“It just so happens right now, I’ve got cancer in my throat,” Pless said. “I don’t know if its caused directly by that or if that’s just the way things are.” 

Pless says his diagnosis may be linked to the water that he’s been drinking for years because of toxins revealed in recent tests of his well water.

“You can’t see it. You can’t taste it, and it’s not good for you,” he said.

Juliette residents say they are battling a water crisis

Monroe County and Altamaha Riverkeepers’ well water tests are showing high toxins of hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6, in residents’ water.

Residents say the coal ash pond at Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer is the cause of chromium six showing up in the water.

“It could be responsible for making a lot of people sick,” Fletcher Sams with Riverkeeper said.

Georgia Power responds

John Kraft with Georgia Power says the company’s tests show the well water is safe and meets standards established by federal regulations and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

“We’ve been operating for 40 years well within environmental guidelines. We’ve made additional investments in the plant to improve its environmental performance over the years,” Kraft said.

Despite the findings, Sams says the chromium six results make the water unsafe to drink. He says that’s why states like North Carolina and California have tougher standards.

Riverkeeper tested 76 residents’ wells since last summer after Georgia Power submitted plans to close its ash pond. Sams considers the safe range to be from .02 to .07.

Georgia Power is currently pursuing plans to close its ash pond and cap it off to keep the water contained in that specific area. Sams says capping off the pond will still cause toxins to get in people’s drinking water.

“If Georgia Power gets a permit to cap this in place, it will forever be in contact with their groundwater,” Sams said.

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division reviewed the closure plan and says ash will be submerged in drinking water.

Pless says no matter how bad the circumstances are, he’s going to keep fighting for justice.

“People are resourceful. People are resilient. I have no intention of ever leaving Juliette,” Pless said.

House Bill 756

State lawmakers are considering House Bill 756, which will require linings for ash ponds to prevent contaminants from reaching well water sources. Residents are pushing for lawmakers to approve the bill.

Kraft says they feel good about their ash pond closure plans. Kraft adds, if Georgia Power ever saw issues or concerns, they’d take the steps needed to resolve them.

Monroe County Commissioners are stepping in and helping to test wells throughout the county.

Sams says residents can test their own wells, which costs $300. Sams recommends using an EPA certified lab.

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Tanya comes all the way from Chicago, Illinois. She’s a city girl that’s excited to be a part of Middle Georgia’s community and tell your stories! She received a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia College Chicago. She also spent a few semesters studying at San Diego State University. While in college, she interviewed Joan Rivers before she passed away, was on the red carpet for the movie premiere of “Chiraq” and also interned with ABC7’s investigative reporters and Bill Kurtis. Tanya spent nearly 2 years reporting in Billings, Montana where she covered a lot of politics and agriculture. In her spare time, Tanya is a sports fanatic, so even though the Chicago Bears and Bulls didn’t know how to win this season, she still roots for them. You can guarantee you’ll run into her at the gym every day. If you do, stop by and say hi! Share your stories with her and don’t be surprised if she’s hiding chocolate chip cookies in her gym bag.