ATLANTA — Environmental groups are urging Georgia officials to reject plans by Georgia Power to store coal waste at five power plants in the state.

The Southern Environmental Law Center said in a letter to Georgia environmental officials on Aug. 5 that the utility plans to leave coal ash in unlined retaining ponds that will continue leaching toxic metals after they are closed.

Coal ash is the waste product left behind when coal is burned. It contains contaminants such as mercury and arsenic that can pollute ground water.

The environmental group cites decisions by other states requiring utilities to excavate ash and put it in lined structures.

Georgia Power spokeswoman Holly Crawford said in a statement the Southern Environment Law Center's letter had incorrect assumptions and inaccuracies.

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