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 Conesville Plant ash storage sites are included in the CCR monitoring program:
- The ash pond system and
- The landfill.
Both ash storage sites are in active use. Conesville uses the ash pond system to receive wet bottom ash. A dry handling system is used for fly ash. Both fly ash and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) materials are placed in a lined landfill.
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.
AEP has announced plans to permanently cease electric generation operations at the Conesville Plant in mid-2020. At that time, the plant will stop placing material into the pond and landfill and will begin closure activities.
- Groundwater Monitoring Report & Statistical Analysis
AEP continued its groundwater monitoring activities around Conesville Plant’s coal ash storage sites. Data was analyzed relative to EPA groundwater protection standards.
Analysis by an independent third party indicates that the ash pond system is causing the levels of arsenic, lithium and molybdenum in the groundwater within the plant site to rise above EPA standards. Additional analysis of groundwater beyond the plant site shows ash pond impacts for lithium and molybdenum. Property owners above impacted groundwater have been notified. No impacts were identified from the landfill.
AEP will develop a mitigation plan to address the groundwater impacts. We proactively met with neighbors and community leaders to share information, answer questions and discuss next steps. We also conducted a public meeting to explain our progress to date and to review potential groundwater remediation options. Public input from that meeting will be considered in making a final decision on remediation measures.
- Coal Combustion Residuals Monitoring & Reporting
AEP completed the first steps in the new groundwater monitoring program under this rule.
AEP 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 Conesville Plant show potential groundwater impacts very close to our storage sites. This led us to expand our groundwater monitoring program at Conesville Plant to look at 21 substances in the groundwater at the plant site.
We are working to understand what the numbers mean. We have other wells on the plant site that are not specifically part of this program. We now take samples at these wells to better understand groundwater conditions farther from the ash storage sites. We installed 30 additional wells and began to gather data from them. We also know that nearby wells used for public drinking water are tested regularly to ensure they meet drinking water standards.
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
Independent third parties completed Alternate Source Reviews for the landfill and bottom ash pond sites at Conesville Plant. The reviews consider other factors that could impact sampling results as the groundwater passes the CCR storage sites.
We completed a successful Alternate Source Review for groundwater impacts at Conesville Plant’s landfill site. The plant will continue sampling groundwater at the landfill to determine any future need for additional monitoring.
An alternate source for groundwater impacts was not found for the bottom ash pond.
- 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 recently completed the required review of location restrictions for Conesville Plant’s CCR storage sites. This review found:
- The Conesville ash pond system is separated from the uppermost aquifer by less than the five feet specified by the rule. It does meet the other four restrictions.
- The Conesville landfill meets all location restrictions.
- Next Steps
- AEP will continue to test water from all of the wells in the groundwater monitoring program twice each year.
- AEP will develop a plan to mitigate groundwater impacts of the ash pond system, considering public input before making a final decision on mitigation measures we will take.
- AEP will begin closure activities for the ash pond system and landfill when the plant ceases operation in 2020.
- Ash Pond