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 has switched to dry fly ash handling. Fly ash now is stored in a lined landfill.
In 2017, Mountaineer provided nearly 60,000 tons of fly ash and bottom ash for beneficial reuse.
- 2018 Groundwater Monitoring Report & Statistical Analysis - New
In 2018, APCO continued its groundwater monitoring activities around Mountaineer Plant’s coal ash storage sites. We analyzed this data relative to EPA drinking water standards and/or with groundwater protection standards.
When we analyzed our 2018 groundwater monitoring data, we found indications that the bottom ash pond potentially 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.
- Coal Combustion Residuals Monitoring & Reporting
Appalachian Power (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 lead us to broaden our groundwater monitoring activities to look at 21 different substances in the groundwater.
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
An independent third party successfully completed an Alternate Source Demonstration for the landfill site at Mountaineer Plant. 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 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 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 stop placing material in the bottom ash pond as soon as we have a storage alternative. We then will begin closure activities. We will seek public input as we develop a mitigation plan to address these impacts.
- Bottom Ash Pond