Sometimes there simply isn’t an easy or cheap fix for a big-time problem. Consider the situation at Alabama Power’s Gadsden Ash Pond.

The utility recently was fined $250,000 by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management after higher than permitted levels of pollutants — arsenic and radium — were found in a few of the monitoring wells around the pond, which is near the Coosa River.

Neither chemical — and Alabama Power believes the radium level was an anomaly — has been detected in finished water at the Gadsden Water Works, which draws from the Coosa, or any nearby water sources.

The ash pond has been closed for four years, since Alabama Power stopped using coal to produce electricity at its Gadsden plant. The utility decided to use the permissible “cover in place” method — sealing the pond and covering it with turf — to deal with the residue, which is nasty, chemical-ridden stuff.

It’s a detailed, multi-step, safeguard-filled process, way more than slapping down a lid and some fake grass. Alabama Power — which is taking the hit for this, not contesting ADEM’s administrative ruling, fine and other oversight stipulations — of course has touted those efforts and absolutely deserves credit for them. The utility has played by the rules and we’ve seen nothing to make us doubt its insistence that public safety is its top priority.

And, of course, environmental activists like the Coosa Riverkeeper are saying “that’s not enough,” pointing out that the mere existence of contaminated groundwater confirms there’s an issue and demanding that Alabama Power move the remaining coal ash both here and at its other plants across the state — Gadsden’s plant was the first to undergo the process; it’s underway at another and four more are in line — instead of covering the ponds in place.

We understand their passion; mention the words “water” and “contamination” (not to mention “arsenic” and “radium”) in proximity, and it grabs people’s attention. The problem is finding realistic options.

Utilities in North Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to excavate their ponds and move the ash to landfills with impermeable linings, and a similar push is underway in South Carolina.

North Carolina has had a couple of major coal ash accidents — a burst drainage pipe in 2014, ponds overflowed by Hurricane Florence’s deluge last year — that contaminated adjacent rivers, so we understand the intensity of the issue there.

However, Duke Energy, the utility in question, claims it would cost $5 billion to excavate its ponds — a cost that by law it could pass off to its customers. Environmentalists say Duke is using hyperbole, but there’s no way emptying the ponds and setting up landfills elsewhere is going to be cheap, easy or simple.

Much coal ash — in particular fly ash, a fine, powdery part of the residue from burned coal — is recycled for use in concrete and, elsewhere in the world, to make bricks, although concerns remain about the substance’s stability and the odds of chemicals leaching out from it. Still, utilities again point out the price tag of getting the ash out of ponds and to recycling facilities, which again would wind up on their customers’ bills.

Those who see things solely in black and white might accuse us of avoiding a stance on this. Honestly, we have no problem with how Alabama Power has conducted itself in this situation, or with environmentalists’ concerns. (The subject of water makes us sit up and pay attention, too.)

We just know there’s often a balancing act between what folks think should be done and what realistically can be done. It’s easy to talk about options — even for really important things — when someone else is writing the check.