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In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new rule addressing the handling, storage and disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs). CCRs are the materials that remain after coal is burned.
Two Big Sandy Plant ash storage sites are included in the CCR monitoring program:
- The bottom ash pond and
- The fly ash pond.
Big Sandy Plant ceased burning coal in 2015. At that time the facility was converted to burn natural gas. As a natural gas-fueled facility, the plant no longer produces CCR material. The bottom ash pond has been closed and the CCR material was removed. It is no longer subject to the CCR monitoring program. The fly ash pond is being closed in place with a cap. This will be completed in late 2020.
We strive to take advantage of opportunities to beneficially reuse as much CCR material as possible. For details, please see the AEP Corporate Accountability Report.
- Groundwater Monitoring Report & Statistical Analysis
Kentucky Power continues groundwater monitoring activities around Big Sandy Plant’s coal ash storage sites. We analyze this data relative to EPA groundwater protection standards.
Analysis of this data by an independent third party indicates that these coal ash storage sites are not impacting groundwater quality.
We will continue groundwater monitoring at the Big Sandy Plant and will provide an update if we detect any samples above the EPA standards.
- Coal Combustion Residuals Monitoring & Reporting
Kentucky Power completed the first steps in the new groundwater monitoring program under this rule.
Kentucky Power took a series of groundwater samples at the boundaries of both ash storage sites. We took some samples before the groundwater passed beneath the ash storage sites. (The reports refer to this as up-gradient.) We took other samples after it passed beneath the sites (down-gradient). We used the data to establish baseline levels for 21 different substances in the groundwater. Moving forward, we will use these baselines to help determine if our ash storage sites are impacting the groundwater.
It is important to remember that variations in the level of these substances in groundwater are natural and occur for many reasons.
The initial data at Big Sandy Plant showed potential groundwater impacts very close to our storage sites. Additional monitoring indicated that our ash storage sites are not impacting groundwater quality.
We proactively reached out and met with plant neighbors and community leaders to answer questions about the data collected so far and to discuss next steps.
- Alternate Source Reviews
An independent third party successfully completed an Alternate Source Demonstration for the Big Sandy fly ash pond. This demonstration identifies other factors that could impact sampling results as the groundwater passes the CCR storage sites.
The plant will continue sampling groundwater at the fly ash pond to determine any future need for additional monitoring.
- Location Restrictions
The CCR rule established location restrictions for coal ash storage sites. It requires that storage site locations be evaluated regarding proximity to groundwater aquifers, wetlands, fault areas, seismic zones and unstable areas (example: presence of quicksand).
AEP and Kentucky Power recently completed the required review of location restrictions for Big Sandy Plant’s CCR storage sites. This review found:
- The Big Sandy fly ash pond is separated from the uppermost aquifer by less than the five feet specified by the rule. It does meet the other four location restrictions.
- The Big Sandy bottom ash pond has been closed and the CCR material was removed prior to this requirement and therefore does not have a location restriction report.
- Next Steps
- Kentucky Power will continue to test water from all of these wells twice each year.
- If, in the future, Kentucky Power determines that an ash storage site is impacting the groundwater, we will seek public input as we develop a mitigation plan to address these impacts.
- Kentucky Power will continue activities to close the fly ash pond. The closure will be complete in late 2020.
- Bottom Ash Pond
- Fly Ash Pond