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.
Four Pirkey Plant ash storage sites are included in the CCR monitoring program:
- The east bottom ash pond,
- The west bottom ash pond,
- The landfill and
- The FGD stackout area.
All storage sites are in active use. Pirkey Plant uses dry fly ash handling. Fly ash is stored in a lined landfill.
Pirkey Plant provided more than 371,000 tons of fly ash for beneficial reuse in 2017.
- 2018 Groundwater Monitoring Report & Statistical Analysis – New
In 2018, SWEPCO continued its groundwater monitoring activities around Pirkey 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 east and west ash ponds and landfill are causing the levels of cadmium, cobalt and lithium in the groundwater within the plant site to rise above EPA standards. We did not find impacts from the FGD stackout area.
We are meeting with plant neighbors and community leaders to answer questions and discuss next steps. SWEPCO will develop mitigation plans to address these groundwater impacts.
- Coal Combustion Residuals Monitoring & Reporting
Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) completed the first steps in the new groundwater monitoring program under this rule.
SWEPCO took a series of groundwater samples at the boundaries of all four 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 Pirkey Plant show potential groundwater impacts very close to our storage sites. This led us to expand our groundwater monitoring 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 FGD stackout area at Pirkey Plant. The successful 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 FGD stackout area 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 SWEPCO recently completed the required review of location restrictions for Pirkey Plant’s CCR storage sites. This review found that the CCR storage sites at Pirkey Plant meet all location restrictions.
- Next Steps
- SWEPCO will continue to test water from all of the wells in the groundwater monitoring program twice each year.
- SWEPCO will stop placing material in the bottom ash ponds as soon as we have a storage alternative. We then will begin closure activities.
- SWEPCO also will develop mitigation plans to address the groundwater impacts of the ash ponds and landfill. We will seek public input before making a final decision as to what measures we will take to mitigate groundwater impacts.
- East Bottom Ash Pond
- FGD Stackout Area
- West Bottom Ash Pond