Two recent toxic spills at coal burning power plants has turned national attention on coal ash ponds like the one at Plant Scherer in Monroe County.
But the public seldom gets a look inside Plant Scherer.
After an invitation from Georgia Power, 13WMAZ gained access to the ash pond at Plant Scherer.
At first glance, you might think it's a nice lake, good for boating and recreation, but this is no lake. It's a coal ash pond at Plant Scherer in Monroe County.
Georgia Power is part owner of the plant, along with other power companies in Georgia and Florida. The recent collapse of a similar pond at the Kingston Plant in Tennessee flooded hundreds of acres with gray muck and destroyed some homes. Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatright said the pond at Plant Scherer is safe.
"We do weekly and daily visual inspections. Employees come by the plant, or by the ash pond, by the berm and inspect it to make sure they don't see anything," Boatright said.
According to Boatright, engineers conduct quarterly inspections of the ash pond, and so far, they have not found any problems. In light of the recent spills, some environmental groups say ash ponds should be done away with entirely, but Boatright says the ponds are an industry standard.
"Whenever you burn coal, you're going to have some materials that do not go through the combustion. You're going to have leftover materials and there must be some way in which to store them," said Boatright.
Georgia Power officials say they're eagerly awaiting the investigation by the Tennessee Valley Authority to determine what went wrong at the Kingston Plant, but in the meantime, they plan to continue to dump ash into the pond.
Boatright said, "For right now, we don't have any reason to believe that there's anything that would effect our ponds here at Plant Scherer or any other Georgia power plants."