There are two major steam plants on the Coosa in Alabama. The Ernest C. Gaston Steam Plant in Wilsonville on Lay Lake is jointly owned by Alabama Power and Georgia Power and burns coal and natural gas. The Gadsden Steam Plant in Gadsden on Lake Neely Henry burns natural gas.
Alabama was ranked worst in the nation for coal ash disposal methods. Alabama was also ranked 12th on Natural Resources Defense Council’s 2011 “Toxic Twenty” list for worst air pollution, mostly due to coal-fired power plants. Coosa Riverkeeper produced a video “Coal Ash in the Coosa Valley” in December 2011. The video can be seen at the bottom of this page.
The E.C. Gaston Plant (pictured at right) is Alabama Power’s third largest fossil fuel plant. Gaston Steam Plant is a major emmitter of pollutants. In fact, according to the Environmental Integrity Project, it ranked second in the nation in the amount of arsenic dumped on-site. The plant was also Alabama’s largest polluter in 2009 when it sent 3.8 million pounds of toxins into the air. It has also in the past been ranked as second in the nation for air emissions of mercury. Atmospheric deposition of mercury is a leading cause of fish contamination on the Coosa River.
Very little coal mining is done in the Coosa Valley these days; in fact only Shelby County (75% of which is in the Coosa Valley) produced significant tonnage of coal in the last decade, and it was still one of the smallest producers in the state. Coosa coal was largely exhausted during the Civil War.