State, Duke Energy Strike Deal to Clean Up Coal Ash Basins

CHARLOTTE, NC -A historic clean up after Duke Energy, State Regulators, and environmental activists have reached a settlement to remove coal ash from nine coal ash basins.

The agreement forces Duke Energy to get the work done, but also saves the corporation money and allows it more time to get the work done.

80 million tons of coal ash at the six North Carolina sites will soon be dug up.

“This is enough to fill over 30,000 Olympic sized swimming pools,” said Brandon Jones, the Catawba River Keeper.

Jones says this day has been years in the making.

“I think we’re all just relieved that it’s over with,” said Jones.

He says he and others feel good about the legal settlement.

“Our goal was to protect the Catawba River and remove the coal ash from threatening it.In that case, we feel very comfortable with the settlement,” said Jones.

Jones says the turning point in the legal battle was an April 1st order by state lawmakers to fully excavate coal ash from the sites.

WCCB spoke with people living near the Allen Steam Station in Belmont when that order came down.

“It makes me feel good,” said Johnny Spain. His property backs up to a coal ash basin.

With the agreement, Duke Energy will save about $1.5 billion dollars and have until 2037 to complete the work.

“If you were to put together all the work we’re doing at various locations, it would probably represent the largest construction project in North Carolina,” said Paige Sheehan, a Duke Energy spokesperson.

Sheehan says the material will be removed and placed into lined landfills on-site and then capped. People who live near the sites should expect years of increased construction traffic. At the Allen Steam Plant, they should also be ready for possible plan changes.

“We also have options in the agreement should we need them to use off-site landfills or to recycle. those are really a variety of options that really allow us to get the work done,” said Sheehan.

Jones says Duke Energy will also be liable for toxins that exceed safe levels at or beyond it’s property boundary, which includes monitoring of Lake Wylie, Lake Norman, and the Catawba River.