Environmental Hazards

Earthjustice Files Lawsuit Against Gulf Power

logo for earthjustice - because the environment needs a good lawyer
Earthjustice claims that Gulf Power’s Sholz plant is dumping harmful chemicals like arsenic into the local water supply.

An environmental legal group called Earthjustice claims a coal ash dump associated with Gulf Power’s Scholz generating plant near Sneads, Florida, is releasing pollutants like arsenic into the water. The group released a press release that stated that scientists measured arsenic levels coming from the plant at 300-times the amount that’s considered safe for drinking water.

This suit is just the latest in an ever-growing list of problems surrounding clean water supply. In January, West Virginia suffered a massive water contamination after a chemical spill left hundreds of thousands of residents without clean running water for nearly a week. Ingredients in healthcare products such as microbeads (commonly used in soaps and scrubs) have gotten more headline attention as well, as more research has come in supporting the fact that they’re slowly but surely building up in places like the Great Lakes and causing massive problems for aquatic life–and eventually humans as well. Add to that list the ever growing string of oil spills and it’s a wonder there’s any clean water left in the world!

But according to spokeswoman Natalie Smith of Gulf Power, Earthjustice’s claims are false. Smith says, “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.”

Gulf Power is denying the claims over the plant they built in Sneads in 1953. The officials at Gulf Power say that the government has been testing the waters around the Scholz Plant since the mid-1980s and the water samples meet regulatory standards. The coal-burning plant is actually scheduled to be closed next year. But environmental groups say the plant will be responsible for polluting the Apalachicola River, long after its closure.

“Basically what this lawsuit is, is a suit under the clean water act for violation of Gulf Power’s permit and for discharges of pollutants that are not regulated,” explained Attorney Alisha Coe, “or not permitted by the clean water act.”

Coe points to independent testing that she says shows the pit is leaking contaminates like arsenic and lead into the river. The environmental groups are hoping a judge revoke Gulf Power’s permit to discharge materials into the river, and bury all of the coal ash from the pits in a landfill.

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