JULIETTE, Ga. — Editor's Note: The video in this story comes from our most recent coverage of Plant Scherer and the city of Juliette.
The Georgia Water Coalition's annual 2020 ‘Dirty Dozen’ report says coal ash pollution in Juliette, Monroe County is one of the state's worst threats to clean water.
The GWC’s Dirty Dozen annual report identifies 12 of the worst threats to the state's waterways. Seven made a return in 2020, and five are new this year.
One returnee is a well-documented issue in Monroe County: coal ash polluting well water in Juliette. Here's what the report says about Monroe County and Plant Scherer, Georgia Power's coal-burning plant:
"This year, neighbors of Plant Scherer in Juliette discovered pollutants in their well water that are associated with coal ash contaminants, but Georgia Power still intends to leave 15.7 million tons of coal ash on site in an unlined pond with some of that ash submerged in groundwater."
Georgia Power responded to being placed on the list with the following statement:
"We stand by the data from more than 100 groundwater monitoring wells at Plant Scherer, including the 57 directly around the ash pond and landfill. Based on the extensive data collected and reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), nothing above a state or federal drinking water standard has been shown leaving the company’s property.
The company’s ash pond closure plans, including the closure plan at Plant Scherer, fully comply with the federal Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule, as well as the more stringent requirements of Georgia’s state CCR rule."
Georgia Power’s coal ash disposal plans have drawn the ire of people in Monroe County for years now, but that anger began to reach its boiling point this year.
The most recent development came at the end of July when 45 people who live near Plant Scherer sued Georgia Power, arguing the plant is making them sick.
The complaint claimed the utility company unlawfully released and dumped toxic heavy metals from coal ash into the groundwater.
The families say they get their water from private wells and that toxins from the plant are "poisoning" people. The lawsuit says neighbors to the plant have suffered from health problems including cancer, cardiovascular and immune disorders, liver damage and more.
In a statement to 13WMAZ, Georgia Power said they're reviewing the lawsuit, but that "they believe the claims have no merit."
The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of more than 260 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations that have been working to protect Georgia’s water since 2002.