Duke Energy to begin removing coal ash from four North Carolina sites

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy today announced a plan to permanently close coal ash basins and safely store coal ash generated from its North Carolina power plants.

The company submitted coal ash excavation plans to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) for ash stored at the high-priority Asheville Steam Electric Plant, Dan River Steam Station (Eden), Riverbend Steam Station (Mount Holly) and L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant (Wilmington) facilities.

These plans must be approved by NC DENR before any excavation work can begin. Under North Carolina’s Coal Ash Management Act, all basins at those sites must be closed by Aug. 1, 2019.

The excavation plans announced today describe a phased approach that enables the company to begin moving ash from the sites even as additional long-term solutions are developed.

The plans detail the proposed amount of ash being moved in the first phase, its destination, how it will be transported, safety and environmental protection measures and permits required. They also outline work to identify solutions for the remaining ash at each location and will be updated and submitted to NC DENR annually or earlier as required by subsequent phases.

“We think these excavation plans go beyond the specific information requested by the state, demonstrating our commitment to closing ash basins in a way that continues to protect the environment, minimizes the impact to neighboring communities and complies with North Carolina’s new coal ash management policies,” explained John Elnitsky, Duke Energy’s senior vice president of ash basin strategy. “We are prepared to proceed as soon as we have the necessary approvals from the state.”

Excavation plans for ash at each of the four high-priority facilities are site-specific.

“The initial work at these facilities will help us assess various approaches for the closure plans at our remaining 10 North Carolina facilities,” said Elnitsky.

During the initial phase of work, the company plans to move approximately 5.1 million tons of ash from the four sites, representing approximately 30 percent of the total ash stored there, within 12 to 18 months following approvals and permits from NC DENR.

As part of Duke Energy’s commitment to recycle coal ash when it can, the ash removed from three of the four sites in Phase 1 will be beneficially reused in engineered structural fill projects. These include the ongoing structural fill project at the Asheville Regional Airport and two new projects to be developed at open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties.

In such fill projects, the ash is contained using specially engineered synthetic liners, and sites are subject to strict groundwater monitoring standards set by state regulators.

Using these open-pit clay mines from the brick industry as the location for the engineered fills has several advantages, including the reclamation of previously unusable land and faster development timelines than siting a new off-site landfill. They also provide deep layers of impervious clay that add environmental protections and existing access to railroads.

Where possible, trains will be used to transport ash to limit the number of trucks on state roadways.

In addition to filing excavation plans for the first four sites, the company has met state deadlines to file groundwater assessment plans, well water receptor surveys and updated permit applications for all 14 of its North Carolina facilities to begin the review and approval process.

As previously announced, Duke has established a national advisory panel of independent experts in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that will provide counsel on permanent coal ash storage solutions for all of its facilities. The company also has created a dedicated, in-house organization to rigorously manage all of its coal ash operations.

More information on Duke Energy’s coal ash management operations, including the site excavation plans, fact sheets and the updated coal ash metrics chart can be found at http://www.duke-energy.com/ash-management/