The clear skies, bright sun and warm temperatures of Saturday morning made it hard to believe that only days before, a dangerous hurricane churned through the waters off the Georgia coast. Taking a look from above on Glynn County from the coast to the Turtle River, appearances seemed to confirm initial assessments of limited local effects from Hurricane Dorian.
One aspect was the clear demarcation between the area in the Plant McManus coal ash pond that, according to Georgia Power, has yet to be fully excavated, and the vast majority of the rest of the pond, which the company contends has been addressed.
“Georgia Power had personnel on-site leading up to Hurricane Dorian’s approach along the coast making additional hurricane preparations and there was no inundation of the pond,” Georgia Power said in a statement Friday to The News. “The pond’s integrity and the approximate two acres with remaining ash on site remained intact.
“For the approximate two acres remaining with ash that are located farthest away from the waterway, we constructed an additional berm to further enclose and protect the remaining approximate two-acre site in preparation for severe weather, such as Hurricane Dorian. The remaining water in the ash pond, outside of the approximately two acres, is not in contact with the ash.”
Reaction from the Altamaha Riverkeeper, which keeps a close eye on the McManus pond, was cautious optimism.
“If Georgia Power preventative measures of building a sand berm around the ash is different than the 2017 flooding event — which left contaminants such as arsenic and boron in the marsh — then that’s great,” Altamaha Riverkeeper Jen Hilburn said Saturday. “However, we have not seen any data from Georgia Power to our regulatory agency documenting testing data showing that they have reached bottom and the soil and water are uncontaminated.”
Hilburn earlier lauded the work of South Carolina utility Santee Cooper, which used an AquaDam around a coal ash pond near Conway, S.C., and thereby stopped flooding into the pond that could have contaminated the Waccamaw River during Hurricane Florence last year.
Meanwhile several miles east, the condition of the Sea Island spit appears largely the same as it did when construction had to pause for the beginning of sea turtle nesting season. Work cannot continue until Nov. 1, but action is scheduled to take place in federal court beforehand.
According to a consent motion and amended scheduling order in the lawsuit over spit development, plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment are due Sept. 23. That kicks off the series of responses, with the federal defendants’ and Sea Island Acquisition’s opposition and cross-motions for summary judgment due Nov. 7, plaintiffs’ oppositions and cross-motions and replies due Dec. 9, and federal defendants’ and SIA’s summary judgment replies due Jan. 8.