Plant Scherer, the coal-powered electricity generating facility off of Ga. 87 near Juliette, was locked down for nearly five hours this morning following a telephoned bomb threat.
Jeff Wilson, spokesman for Georgia Power, which operates the plant, said "an extensive sweep of the plant's buildings and facilities" by the utility's emergency response team and law enforcement personnel found no evidence of a bomb, so normal operations resumed about 11 a.m.
The plant is located on about 3,500 acres at Lake Juliette in east Monroe County.
Wilson said plant personnel were informed of the threat about 6:15 a.m. by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, which received the threat in a call to its 911 center.
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"When we were informed of the threat, we implemented a lockdown and began the search," Wilson said.
Employees coming to work were not allowed into the plant, and those already at work were not allowed to leave.
Sheriff's Deputy Charles Miller said a man called the 911 center between 6:05 and 6:10 a.m. and announced a bomb was in the plant. The call was made from a pay phone at the Stop and Shop convenience store on Tift College Drive in Forsyth, he said.
Miller said he went to the store and talked to the clerk, who remembered seeing one of two men in a large black pickup use the phone and then drive away toward Juliette. She was unable to identify the make of the truck.
Deputies then went to Plant Scherer and searched for a similar truck in an effort to find the caller, but they were unable to locate a suspect, Miller said. The department is continuing its investigation.
Wilson said about 400 people work at the plant, but he was unsure how many were on duty when the threat was made.
"After a couple of hours and we had found it was safe for them to leave, the shift on duty was allowed to leave. Then after the all-clear, the day shift was allowed in," Wilson said.
The plant's generators continued to operate during the lockdown, and there was no interruption of electrical service from the plant, he said.
Wilson was unsure if there had ever been a bomb threat at the plant before, but he said it was the first in the 10 years he has worked for Georgia Power.
Plant Scherer is operated by Georgia Power and jointly owned by seven utility companies — Oglethorpe Power, Georgia Power, Florida Power and Light, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, Gulf Power, Jacksonville Electric Authority and Dalton Utilities.
The $2.1 billion facility can produce 3.52 million kilowatts in its four coal-fired steam-powered generating units. The first unit went online in 1982, followed by the other three in 1984, 1987 and 1989.
Ronald Norris, chief of Monroe County's fire department and emergency services, said his department had firefighting units and an ambulance on standby at the plant but that his crews did not participate in the search for a bomb.
"We were there in case they needed us, but thankfully nothing happened," he said.