JULIETTE, Ga. (AP) — Residents near a middle Georgia power plant are suing Georgia Power Co., alleging the plant is poisoning their well water.
The suit filed Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court alleges the electric utility has illegally released toxic heavy metals from coal ash at Plant Scherer into groundwater. Georgia Power is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co.
The 45 residents live near the plant in rural Juliette.
“If they won’t do the right thing because it’s a profitable thing, then they may do the right thing because it’s a legal thing,” Mike Pless of Juliette told WMAZ-TV.
The lawsuit says neighbors to the plant have suffered from health problems including cancer, cardiovascular and immune disorders because of tainted well water.
Georgia Power denies wrongdoing. Spokesman John Kraft noted a similar lawsuit that dealt with uranium levels in groundwater was voluntarily dismissed in 2014.
“We are longtime members of this community; we live and raise our families here and take these allegations very seriously,” Kraft said in a statement. "Georgia Power will vigorously defend itself in this case.”
Environmentalists want power companies forced to excavate the ash ponds where they have placed waste and bury it in lined landfills, as is required for common household trash, to prevent waste from seeping into groundwater. Georgia Power plans to close its 29 coal ash ponds, but does not plan to bury the waste for all of them in lined landfills.
Representatives of Georgia Power say the Plant Scherer ash pond can safely be capped in place without an unlined bottom and that the company’s 57 monitoring wells find no violations.
State lawmakers spurned efforts to force Georgia Power to bury waste in landfills this year.
Those suing demand that Georgia Power pay for injuries and property damage, stop polluting water, and pay for medical monitoring.
Brian Adams, a lawyer for the residents, said the plaintiffs have evidence to connect the problems to the utility.
“They made a conscious decision not to, knowing exactly what was going to happen, knowing their next door neighbors were on wells, drinking the groundwater, and they didn’t care. They didn’t care then, and they don’t care now,” Adams said.