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 a dry handling system for fly ash and places the fly ash in a lined landfill.
In 2017, Conesville provided nearly 200,000 tons of fly and bottom ash and more than 525,000 tons of FGD materials for beneficial reuse. The plant itself beneficially reused significant amounts of this material for local mine reclamation work.
AEP has announced plans to permanently cease operations at Conesville Plant in mid-2020. At that time, the plant will stop placing material into the pond and landfill and will begin closure activities.
- 2018 Groundwater Monitoring Report & Statistical Analysis - New
In 2018, AEP continued its groundwater monitoring activities around Conesville Plant’s coal ash storage sites. We analyzed this data relative to EPA drinking water standards and/or with groundwater protection standards.
Analysis of this data 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. We did not find impacts from the landfill. We do not have any data off of the plant site.
AEP will develop a mitigation plan to address the groundwater impacts. We will seek public input before making a final decision as to what measures to take. We are proactively meeting with neighbors and community leaders to answer questions and to discuss next steps.
- Coal Combustion Residuals Monitoring & Reporting
AEP has 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 begin a broader monitoring program called assessment monitoring. In assessment monitoring we look at a total of 21 substances in the groundwater on 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 15 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
An independent third party successfully completed Alternate Source Demonstrations for the Conesville landfill. The 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 landfill 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 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 is developing plans to gather information about groundwater quality off the plant site in 2019.
- AEP will develop a plan to mitigate groundwater impacts, seeking 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