The Brunswick City Commission is following the lead of a local environmental organization and has drawn up a resolution calling on state legislators to create stricter regulations governing the storage of coal ash.
Megan Desrosiers, chief executive officer of One Hundred Miles, a nonprofit coastal advocacy organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, and enhance the 100-mile Georgia coast, asked local governmental agencies in September to reach out to state legislators.
“Glynn County and the city of Brunswick are downstream from municipal solid waste landfills that already store and are planning to store additional large quantities of coal ash,” Desrosiers said. “By asking our legislators to ensure safeguards are in place at these facilities to prevent contaminants from leaking into our surface and drinking water supplies, the city of Brunswick officials are taking the lead to keep our communities safe.”
With the potential for coal ash storage in neighboring Wayne County, Desrosiers addressed the Brunswick City Commission, the Glynn County Commission and the Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water and Sewer Commission to encourage them to get involved.
The Brunswick commission will consider a resolution to request stricter regulations at its meeting Wednesday.
“We need to be as strong on this as possible because we have sandy soil here. Right now there are very few regulations. It’s hard to imagine the amount of coal ash Republic wants to transport to the Broadhurst facility,” said Brunswick Commissioner Julie Martin Thursday. “Every effort needs to be made. It’s on all or our radars and we will remain vigilant.”
The two landfills Derosiers and One Hundred Miles are concerned about are in Charlton County at the Chester Island Landfill and Wayne County at the Broadhurst Landfill.
Reportedly containing at least 25 heavy metals, carcinogens, and radioactive elements that are easily introduced and transported by water, Desrosiers said coal ash is a potential threat to Georgia water sources and wetlands.
Desrosiers also asked the commissioners to write letters to state legislators asking them to look into options for managing the amount of coal ash allowed in landfills.
Coal ash has traditionally been stored in unlined wet ash ponds on sites at utility- owned properties. The ash, especially during flooding and natural disasters, has been known to leak or overflow, polluting different types of community resources, environmental advocates have said.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently reclassified coal ash so it could be stored in municipal landfill facilities across the country. That did not sit well with Desrosiers.
“It was reclassified by the Environmental Protection Agency so that it is equal to what is considered municipal solid waste that comes from our houses and gets picked up by either Republic (Services) or Waste Management everyday, and that is a problem,” Desrosiers said previously.
With 48 solid waste municipal landfills in Georgia, four of them are unlined, Desrosiers said. Those unlined landfills will not be eligible for coal ash storage. When those municipal solid waste landfills were permitted decades ago, it wasn’t with coal ash in mind, Desrosiers said previously.
Chester Island, she said, recently had a chemical release that was a byproduct of coal production.
Broadhurst currently only has a small amount of coal ash, according Desrosiers, but Republic Services, the company that operates it, recently announced that in addition to 1,800 tons of municipal solid waste received every day, it would like to import 10,000 tons of coal ash every day. The company applied for a permit with the Army Corps of Engineers to fill in wetlands to allow for a rail spur that would allow the ash to be brought in.
Republic’s plan is something that threatens the tourism economy that’s based on the water supply, Desrosiers said.
Republic maintains the lined ponds are a safe way to store coal ash.