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Environmental Groups Claim Power Company Is Polluting Apalachicola River, File Lawsuit

Chris M Morris

Environmental legal group Earthjustice claims a coal ash dump associated with Gulf Power’s Scholz generating plant near Sneads, Florida is leeching pollutants like arsenic into the water. In a press release the group says scientists measured arsenic levels coming from the plant at 300-times the amount that’s considered safe for drinking water.  But Gulf Power spokeswoman Natalie Smith says her company is required to watch for that and so far, hasn’t found any evidence the plant is releasing anymore than an Environmental Protection Agency permit allows.

“Our groundwater monitoring data shows levels are in compliance and not only nowhere near the levels of Earthjustice, but we conducted an additional study in February of 2014 and this study shows no detectable levels of arsenic at plant Sholz,” Smith says.

Earthjustice attorney Alisa Coe says her group has offered to partner with Gulf Power officials to show them  how they’re getting their results.

“And they’ve not been interested in that,” Coe says.

Coe says one reason for the difference in water quality test results could come from when and where the tests are performed.

“You know, if you’re taking a sample out in the middle of the river, you may not see that there are high levels of arsenic  coming off the property into the river,” Coe says.

Coe says Earthjustice’s clients conducted tests on several occasions, but admits during some of those tests the water in the river was high which would increase the amount of discharge going into the river. The plant  is scheduled to shut down in April of 2015, and Coe says that makes this lawsuit more important now than ever. When a large power plant shuts down a certain amount of cleanup is required. Coe says her group is hoping the lawsuit will force Gulf Power to relocated its coal ash dump during the clean up to an inland location with a lined pit.

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Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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