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Juliette residents voice concerns on coal ash ponds at town hall meeting

The Altamaha Riverkeeper group hosted a meeting meant to gain support on a new state bill to make coal ash disposal safer for drinking water.

JULIETTE, Ga. — Dozens made it out to express concerns and ask questions at Altamaha Riverkeeper's meeting about Georgia Power's coal ash ponds Tuesday night. 

Altamaha Riverkeeper explained toxic chemicals that can be found in coal ash ponds. 

Fletcher Sams with the organization says, "The same things leaking out of those monitoring wells are the same things we're finding in peoples drinking water."

People living around Plant Scherer asked questions about the Riverkeeper's groundwater tests.

One Juliette man asked, "Is there a filtration system that someone could put in their house that could help?" Another woman wondered, "How long would it take to clean itself up?"

The environmental group told people they believe the groundwater is contaminated after numerous water tests at homes in Juliette.

"1,000 wells that are drinking the same water that, that ash is sitting in," says Sams. 

Many questioned how far the contamination goes, "if it's in the ground water is it in everything else?" 

While there were countless questions, several people shared concerns. 

Michael Pless attended the meeting. He says people in Juliette could benefit from the Riverkeepers' information, "At the very, very least for them to protect themselves, and stop drinking the water until we can figure out just how bad it is."

Others said, "Everybody says, 'Well, if we lose Georgia Power, we're going to go bankrupt.' We're going to go bankrupt if we don't have a community, if we're dying and moving out."

The Riverkeepers asked people to fill out surveys about their concerns, and water drinking habits at home. 

They say every voice helps build a stronger case in changing Georgia Power's plans on shutting down coal ash ponds in a safer way.

The Riverkeepers are working to pass a new bill in the Georgia Assembly. They say municipal solid waste landfills have bottom liner to make sure garbage doesn't pollute groundwater. 

The bill would add a new policy to the Solid Waste Management Act that includes rules on coal ash disposal. 

Riverkeepers say, "If banana peels and coffee grounds must be disposed of in lined landfills with leachate collection systems, toxic coal ash should be disposed of in lined facilities, too."

In the meeting, Sams asked people to call state representatives and ask them to sign the bill that helps enforce a safer closure of the coal ash ponds.

The environmental group is hosting one more meeting this week on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Forsyth Presbyterian Church on Jackson Street in Forsyth.

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