Monroe County residents file lawsuit against Georgia Power

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FORSYTH, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Nearly three dozen Monroe County residents have filed a lawsuit in Atlanta against Georgia Power. The suit claims Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer is polluting the area and contaminating nearby well water.

Residents in the Juliette area say they use well water for drinking, bathing, cleaning and irrigation. Residents believe the pond at Plant Scherer is leaching toxic metals into the groundwater and making families sick. According to the suit, the cancer rate in Monroe County is more than double the state and national averages.

The complaint also states that the coal ash pond contains about 15.7 million tons of coal ash. The pond does not have a liner.

Plaintiffs say their property values are devastated because of the contamination. That’s why the residents are seeking damages against Georgia Power for wrongful acts that caused personal injury and property damage.

John Kraft with Georgia Power sent a letter to 41NBC in response to the lawsuit filed:

Georgia Power is standing firm behind its employees and the safe operations at Plant Scherer in Juliette, Georgia, following a lawsuit filed July 29. The company and its employees are longtime members of the community with Plant Scherer safely generating energy for neighbors, the local area and the state for nearly four decades. The company believes the lawsuit, similar to one that was voluntarily dismissed years ago, has no merit and will vigorously defend itself against the claims.

“We have been a part of the Juliette and Monroe County communities for decades, and we take our responsibility as a trusted neighbor very seriously,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental & Natural Resources for Georgia Power. “Our employees and retirees also live and raise their families in the communities we serve, and if our operations were causing harm to residents, we would take every action necessary to resolve the situation.”

In 2013, Georgia Power faced similar litigation that the plaintiffs later withdrew after the court required them to provide expert evidence. The company is reviewing the current lawsuit and believes that, as in the earlier case, the claims are without merit.

Since Plant Scherer first opened, Georgia Power has incorporated strict environmental standards into operating the generating plant, which included the operation of its ash pond. With the closure of the pond underway, Georgia Power’s top priority has been to protect water quality every step of the way, which includes:

  • Groundwater quality: Georgia Power stands by the data delivered from the more than 100 groundwater monitoring wells at Plant Scherer, including the 57 directly around the ash pond and landfill. Based on the extensive data collected and reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), nothing above a state or federal drinking water standard has been shown leaving the company’s property. This groundwater monitoring will continue long after the pond at Plant Scherer is closed.
  • Closure of the ash pond: The company’s ash pond closure plans, including the closure plan at Plant Scherer, fully comply with the federal Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule, as well as the more stringent requirements of Georgia’s state CCR rule. Federal and state rules specify two approved methods for closing ash ponds, closure in place and closure by removal, with the Environmental Protection Agency determining both options are safe and protective of the environment.
  • Monitoring wells: Third-party professional engineers and geologists direct the appropriate placement of monitoring wells for Georgia Power based on site-specific geology. The company has also engaged independent, third-party contractors for sampling and accredited independent laboratories for analysis of the wells installed at Plant Scherer. Georgia Power has installed approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells across the state, including the more than 100 wells at Plant Scherer, going beyond federal and state requirements, to help ensure the company is being protective of lakes, rivers and drinking water. Monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations.
  • Fact-based, clear and transparent information: Georgia Power, along with the Plant Scherer co-owners, is and will remain committed to the open communication and transparency of Plant Scherer’s operations, ash pond closure plans and groundwater testing results. Georgia Power representatives have met personally with residents as well as state and local officials and have sent additional information directly to Juliette neighbors around Plant Scherer. Additional information can be found at www.GeorgiaPower.com/gwm.

Plant Scherer and the Community

The plant has safely generated energy, often 24 hours a day, for nearly four decades. The plant’s four units can produce nearly 3,720 megawatts of electricity and can supply enough reliable, affordable energy to power over two million homes annually.

The plant employs nearly 400 employees, many of whom live in Monroe County and across central Georgia. In addition, employee volunteers donate thousands of volunteer hours and dollars each year to improve their home communities in and around Monroe County.

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Shelby Coates anchors 41NBC News at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11. She returns to 41NBC after working in Evansville, Indiana as the Morning/Noon Anchor and Executive Producer for WEVV. Shelby also spent time in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where she spent three years anchoring and producing the weekend morning newscasts at WSPA-TV. She also worked as a general assignment reporter, receiving several honors for her investigative and consumer reporting. Shelby has spent time working as a news anchor/reporter in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Macon, Georgia; and Abilene, Texas. Shelby is a native of Clarksville, Tennessee. She graduated from Abilene Christian University in Texas with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in sociology. Shelby has a passion for empowering local communities, church ministry, public speaking, strengthening women and mentoring young people.