Maximum fines levied against Alabama Power for polluting groundwater

(IMG: WPMI) Maximum fines levied against Alabama Power for polluting groundwater

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) has slapped Alabama Power with a $1.25 million fine for contaminating groundwater at its five power plant locations. Each location was fined $250,000, the maximum civil penalty that can be assessed. PowerSouth in Washington County was also fined $250,000.

In Mobile County, Alabama Power collected its own samples and reported them to ADEM last month. The company’s records show it allowed arsenic levels to exceed the EPA limit 94 times in two years.

"The results are what they are, and when we received them, we provided them to ADEM," said Alabama Power media relations coordinator Michael Sznajderman. "We have always strived to comply with the rules and regulations."

ADEM says the contaminants are coming from the coal-fired power plants' coal ash ponds. The state agency confirms it has not found a threat to public drinking water but the utility has been told to evaluate nearby private well water.

"We're not safe. If you found it in the groundwater. You're going to find it around the plant. You're likely to find it in the river as well. You're likely to find it in the fish and surrounding communities," said Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director Casi Callaway.

Alabama Power has 45 days to pay the fine, 270 days to tell ADEM why the contamination is occurring and 330 days to tell ADEM how it's going to stop it. Environmental watchdog Mobile Baykeeper says given these sample results, there's only one acceptable option.

"We know the only way to safely protect public health and our natural resources, and our businesses and our economy is to dig out that coal ash and move it off the river," said Callaway.

But Alabama Power has no plan to move it.

"The EPA has determined closing in place is a safe way to address the situation and we're following those regulations," said Sznajderman.

Mobile Baykeeper is encouraging people to fight the decision to keep the coal ash pond and is encouraging the public to write letters. To connect with Mobile Baykeeper click here.

ADEM's summary findings for Barry Electric Plant in Axis