MOUNT HOLLY, NC – Four million tons of coal ash is stored at the old Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake. Neighbors want it gone, but Duke Energy has to find someplace willing to take the toxic material.
After 84 years, there’s no more coal ash pouring into the basins outside the station. The coal-fired plant shut down last year. But recent coal ash spills like one into the Dan River in February have neighbors worried.
“They know the problems of coal ash, and the toxins, and what it’s doing to the environment, and so they just need to step up,” says resident Deanna Hamm.
Duke Energy has committed to moving the ash to a location where it would be sealed and buried. But when and where are still in question.
“Right now we’re looking at due diligence with the city of Charlotte, and hoping to make a good productive use of the ash,” says Duke spokesperson Lisa Hoffman.
Hoffman says using the ash as fill material at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is still an option, even though the Aviation Director raised doubts. “It’s very safe. It’s fully-lined with synthetic barriers, and has waste-water collection built-in, it’s state-of-the-art,” Hoffman says.
Duke representatives admit–wherever the coal ash goes, it will take years to safely move it. Right now, the ponds at Riverbend are unlined, but water levels are lower than when the plant was operating.
“We will have to try to remove as much of the free water in the ash basins as we can so we can excavate the material out,” says Duke spokesperson Erin Culbert.