AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

The toxic spill was cleaned up, officials said. But that didn't mean their back yards were safe.

The north Georgia hamlet of Euharlee is so close to Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen that residents of Covered Bridge Springs used to use its driveway as a short cut to get home. So when a hard rain in 2008 caused a man-made lagoon of toxic ash to overflow, the waste ended up in neighbors’ backyards.

Mitch Meade found out about the spill from company personnel.

"They had come up to the door," Meade recalled. "I looked out back and it was all gray."

Workers with heavy equipment spent the next few months carving out the top layer of soil at 14 properties and carting it away, according to Meade, other residents, and public records.  When they were done, the ground was covered in new soil and sod, a gully was lined with fat, white rock, and new trees were planted.

“It doesn't look like it's polluted,” Meade said. “They had people test it. They said they can't find anything.”

But the real story is more complicated.

“I can’t tell you whether arsenic levels in the soil are safe,” a state environmental official told the AJC. “I can tell you that Georgia Power picked up everything that it spilled.”

Find out more at MyAjc.com.

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