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article imageNorth Carolina orders Duke Energy to excavate all coal ash ponds

By Karen Graham     Apr 1, 2019 in Environment
Charlotte - The country's largest electric company was ordered Monday to excavate coal ash from all of its North Carolina power plant sites, potentially adding billions of dollars to the costs consumers pay for electricity.
After decades of burning coal to provide electricity, Duke Energy must now remove the residue from in the company's coal ash ponds, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said on Monday.
The DEQ rebuffed Duke Energy's suggestion that they cover some of the coal ash pits with waterproof caps. The company said this would prevent rain from passing through and carrying chemicals through the unlined bottoms and would provide a quicker and cheaper option.
The energy company said Monday that escalating the coal ash ponds and removing the ash to another location and storing it in a lined pond would double its cleanup costs to about $10 billion. Duke had previously estimated it would take about 30 years to clean up its 14 current and former ash ponds.
View of collapsed coal ash impoundment and closed power plant at Dan River Steam Station (Duke Energ...
View of collapsed coal ash impoundment and closed power plant at Dan River Steam Station (Duke Energy), Eden, North Carolina. The impoundment failure caused the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Atlanta, GA.
"We did a thorough analysis of the six sites and it wasn't a decision that was made by other reasons than the science," state Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan said in an interview, reports the Sacramento Bee. "We're making these decisions so that they are most protective of public health and the environment."
The six sites in question
Monday's decision affects six coal ash pits, Coal ash pits at eight other sites had previously been ordered to be excavated with the ash to be stored away from any waterways. The new sites include the Mayo and Roxboro plants in Person County, the Marshall plant on Lake Norman, the Allen plant in Gaston County, the Cliffside plant in Cleveland County and the Belews Creek plant in Stokes County.
The move by the DEQ also means that North Carolina has joined Virginia and South Carolina in ordering major utilities to move their coal ash out of unlined pits.
Failure of a coal ash pond in December 2008 at the Kingston Fossil in Tennessee spilled more than 1 ...
Failure of a coal ash pond in December 2008 at the Kingston Fossil in Tennessee spilled more than 1 billion gallons of coal ash into waterways.
Tennessee Valley Authority
Under a 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coal ash rule, all U.S. electric generating utilities were required to analyze groundwater pollution at each of their operating coal ash dumps by January 31, 2018, and publish the results online by March 2. It was found that 91 percent of the facilities had contaminated groundwater with toxic substances at levels outstripping federal safety standards.
The Coal Ash Rule does not regulate older, closed coal ash dumps, even though they too are contaminating groundwater. There are hundreds of these older ash dumps across the country. Even more alarming is that the Coal Ash Rule does not require the monitoring or testing of drinking water wells near coal ash ponds, so the threat is largely undefined.
Charlotte-based Duke Energy has 7.6 million electricity customers in the Carolinas, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.
More about Duke energy, Coal Ash Ponds, lined pits, Toxic chemicals, $10 billion
 
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