Georgia Pipeline Begins Serving Residents Who Fear Well Water

(AP) — A middle Georgia county has turned on a pipeline providing water to some residents who say their wells have been poisoned by coal ash from a nearby power plant.

Monroe County commissioners gathered Tuesday for the connection of the first phase of a $16.3 million project that will serve up to 850 homes in Juliette and surrounding areas. That phase, to be completed next month, will serve 374 homes.

Resident Charles Grizzard was the first to receive piped-in water, according to a county news release.

Altamaha Riverkeeper has previously tested wells around Juliette and found chemicals it says indicate contamination by toxic heavy metals from the coal ash pond at Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Scherer. Some Juliette residents have been relying on water that the county was trucking to a fire station.

Representatives of Georgia Power say the company’s 57 monitoring wells find no violations of federal drinking water standards. The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. has been buying out residents in some areas near the plant.

Environmentalists want power companies forced to excavate the ash ponds where they have placed waste and bury it in lined landfills, as is required for common household trash, to prevent waste from seeping into groundwater. Georgia Power plans to close its 29 coal ash ponds statewide, but does not plan to bury the waste for all of them in lined landfills. It says the Plant Scherer ash pond can safely be capped in place without an unlined bottom. State lawmakers last year spurned efforts to force Georgia Power to bury all waste in landfills.

Dozens of Juliette residents sued Georgia Power last year, claiming groundwater pollution. The lawsuit says neighbors of the plant have suffered from health problems including cancer, cardiovascular and immune disorders because of tainted well water.

Georgia Power denies wrongdoing and notes a similar lawsuit over uranium levels in groundwater was voluntarily dismissed in 2014.

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