MIAMI (AP) — Gulf Power Company is allowing pollutants from aging coal ash pits to leak into the Apalachicola River, according to a lawsuit filed by three environmental groups.
The nonprofit law firm Earthjustice filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Tallahassee federal court on behalf of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Waterkeeper Alliance and Apalachicola Riverkeeper. They say Gulf Power is illegally discharging arsenic, lead and other pollutants from its coal-fired plant near Sneads into the river.
The Jackson County plant, which opened in 1953, is scheduled to close next year. It's always been in compliance since Gulf Power began groundwater monitoring in the mid-1980s, said utility spokeswoman Natalie Smith.
Gulf Power and the state Department of Environmental Protection conducted follow-up inspections and testing after the groups announced their intent to sue, and an additional study comparing ecosystems upstream from the plant with downstream ecosystems found no differences, Smith said.
"All test results were determined to be within compliance and did not support the allegations made," she said.
Gulf Power has a federal Clean Water Act permit that allows it to discharge treated coal ash water and chlorinated condensing water directly into the river through an outfall, but the Pensacola-based company is violating that permit because pollutants are leaking from other points without being treated, according to the lawsuit.
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