A coastal Georgia environmental nonprofit has taken another step in its fight against a plan to transport and store coal ash in Wayne County that it says could be detriment to public health and the environment.
“We think it’s extremely important that our water supply, wetlands, creeks and rivers be protected from this material and we will use every legal option we have to prevent it,” said David Kyler, executive director of the St. Simons Island based Center for a Sustainable Coast, the group that started the legal fund.
The legal fund so far has amassed about $20,000 in donations to its general fund. An anonymous donor will double the amount of each donation made for as long as the legal fund is needed, according to Kyler.
At issue are the plans of Central Virginia Properties of Spartanburg, S.C., to construct a rail yard operation where coal ash would arrive in rail cars, be loaded on dump trucks and then transported to the Broadhurst Landfill in Wayne County.
Republic Services owns both the Broadhurst Landfill and Central Virginia Properties.
“The rail yard is adjacent to the landfill,” said attorney David Stewart of Crowder and Stewart, the law firm hired by the Center for a Sustainable Coast. “Republic Services owns about 2,000 acres and about 800 acres of that is the landfill. Part of the 800 acres would be devoted for coal ash storage. Currently there is no coal ash being stored there but they did get permission years ago to expand and to accept the coal ash as they once did.”
As part of the rail yard construction, Central Virginia Properties is requesting to fill in 25 acres of wetlands to build the facility.
A permit to build the rail yard is still pending with the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A permit requesting special liners to store up to 10,000 tons of coal ash a day at the Broadhurst landfill is also pending.
Other environmental groups and the public have spoken out against the rail yard and coal ash storage plan.
The Center for a Sustainable Coast feels property values, jobs, public health and overall quality of life could suffer if the proposed plan is allowed.
“We’re seeking help from the public to prevent that from happening,” said the center’s board president, Steve Willis. “Our best option is to thoroughly explore and, as justified, pursue legal challenges to prevent unwise and irreversible coal ash hazards.”
Attorney Ken Crowder of Crowder and Stewart feels the Center for Sustainable Coast and others have a fighting chance against this plan, and added the reason the permit request is still pending with the Army Corps of Engineers is because the company did not adequately describe how it would control and monitor the ash when it was transferred.
“I certainly think they’ve made good arguments so far,” said Crowder of the public outcry against the rail yard, the use of wetlands to build the yard and possible storage of coal ash at the landfill. “Public groups and citizens pointed out the shortcomings in the application. The Corps typically works with the applicant on points that are legitimate and so the application is still under evaluation and there is no timeline on when something will be decided.”
Russ Knocke, a spokesman for Republic, said the company applied for the permit to take the necessary steps to prepare its landfill for a change in government regulations requiring coal ash to be landfilled.
Power companies that use coal to generate electricity may need to change their disposal operations to handle the residuals, Knocke said.
“Broadhurst Landfill is already designed and permitted to safely manage coal combustion residuals, and operates in full compliance with state and federal regulations,” he said. “In the interim, we are working with state and local officials to address questions within the community about coal ash. In addition, we have already committed to the community that we will not accept coal ash at Broadhurst in 2016.”