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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 Mountaineer Plant ash storage sites are included in the CCR monitoring program:
- The bottom ash pond and
- The landfill.
Both storage sites are in active use. Mountaineer Plant uses a dry fly ash handling system and a wet bottom ash system. Fly ash is stored in a lined landfill, along with flue gas desulfurization (FGD) material.
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
Appalachian Power (APCo) continued its groundwater monitoring activities around Mountaineer Plant’s coal ash storage sites. Data was analyzed relative to EPA groundwater protection standards.
Analysis of this data by an independent third party indicates that the bottom ash pond is causing the level of lithium in groundwater within the plant site to rise above EPA standards. We did not find impacts from the landfill.
APCo 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
APCo has completed the first steps in the new groundwater monitoring program under this rule.
APCO 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 Mountaineer Plant show potential groundwater impacts very close to our storage sites. This led us to expand our groundwater monitoring program at Mountaineer Plant to look at 21 different substances in the groundwater at the plant site.
We are working to understand what the numbers mean. We will do additional monitoring and analysis to determine if there are groundwater impacts from our storage sites farther from the immediate area.
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 Mountaineer 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 Mountaineer 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 and Appalachian Power recently completed the required review of location restrictions for Mountaineer Plant’s CCR storage sites. This review found that both CCR storage sites at Mountaineer Plant meet all location restrictions.
- Next Steps
- APCO will continue to test water from all of the wells in the groundwater monitoring program twice each year.
- APCO will develop a plan to stop placing material in the bottom ash pond and will close the site, considering public input before making a final decision on mitigation measures we will take.
- Bottom Ash Pond