Duke Energy has said it will begin the process of moving several coal ash ponds away from waterways, including the two on the Dan River in Eden.
The decision to close and move coal ash ponds comes in the wake of the coal ash spill in Eden, where a 48-inch reinforced corrugated steel stormwater pipe broke Feb. 2, releasing 30,000-39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
Since the spill, Duke Energy has come under intense scrutiny.
State regulators issued notices of violation to Duke Energy Feb. 28 with the possibility of fines for state environmental laws related to the coal ash spill at the company’s Dan River power plant in Eden.
In a letter dated Wednesday to Gov. Pat McCrory and John Skvarla, secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good outlined the company's long-term plans to reduce the risk of coal ash ponds:
- Permanently close the Dan River ash ponds and move ash away from the river to a lined structural fill solution or a lined landfill. This work will be started immediately upon securing the appropriate fill solution or landfill location and any necessary permits, with an expected completion thereafter of 24-30 months.
- Accelerate planning and closure of the Sutton ash ponds to include evaluation of possible lined structural fill solutions and other options. A conceptual closure plan will be submitted to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) within six months, and removing the water from the ash basins will be completed in the next 18-24 months.
- Move all ash from Riverbend away from the river to a lined structural fill solution or a lined landfill. Work will begin immediately upon securing the appropriate fill solution or landfill location and any necessary permits, with an expected completion thereafter within 48-54 months.
- Continue moving ash from the Asheville plant to a lined structural fill solution. We continue to look for ash reuse opportunities where such uses remain permissible under the upcoming coal ash regulations.
- Convert the three remaining North Carolina units to dry fly ash (Cliffside 5 and both Asheville units) or retire the units. Conversion work, if selected, will be completed within 30-36 months of receiving permits.
- Minimize the potential risk of a discharge similar to Dan River by accelerating the removal of water from the ash ponds at all retired coal plants. Upon receipt of permits, dewatering will be completed within 24-36 months.
Duke says they will start the cleanup in Eden as soon as they can find a lined landfill or lined structural facility.
In an outline of events released by DENR, Duke started interviewing contractors for the cleanup job last week. It is expected to take more than two years to clean up the ponds located outside Eden alone. The company has 31 additional coal ash ponds.
“We will continue to work with state and federal agencies as we determine next steps needed for the river," Good wrote, regarding the response to the Dan River spill.