Duke Energy has announced plans to close many coal ash ponds across the state, including at the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake, after at least 30,000 tons of the toxic byproduct from burning coal spilled into the Dan River last month. City officials say Duke and another company have proposed that the airport use the ash.
In a letter to environmental regulators, Duke CEO Lynn Good lists Riverbend as one of the sites where Duke would scoop the ash out of the ponds and move it to a lined landfill over the next four to five years. It’s the solution environmental groups have long called for, because the ash would be dry, covered, and away from the banks of rivers.
As state regulators released that letter, the City of Charlotte released its own announcement. It says Duke is proposing to put the landfill at Charlotte Douglas, where the airport could use it for future projects. Millions of tons of coal ash is commonly recycled into concrete, cement, and layers of road every year. City officials will offer more details Friday, and say they will review the plan.
State regulators would first need to approve any plan to remove the coal ash both at Riverbend and the other sites Duke mentions in the letter.
Duke’s plan also calls for:
- Closing the Dan River ash ponds, and moving the ash to lined landfills within 24-30 months.
- Removing the water from the retired Sutton Steam Station (Wilmington) ash ponds in 18-24 months, and decide whether to seal the ash ponds with a cover or remove the ash to a landfill in the next six months.
- Closing the ash ponds at the retired Asheville steam unit, and moving the ash to a landfill.
- Draining water from all other ash ponds at retired coal plants in two or three years.
Duke also says it will decide to either convert the ash storage at its active coal units—at the Cliffside Steam Station (Cleveland County) and Asheville Steam Station—or it could retire those units.
State regulators criticized the 4-page letter for not providing all the information they requested, including the projected cost of the projects.
“There are far too many questions left unanswered,” said state environment secretary John Skvarla in a statement. “And Duke Energy should provide the information we originally requested, including the estimated costs of cleanup, plans for the future and a detailed timeline. This department is moving forward immediately with mechanisms to not only derive the necessary information, but to also enforce stringent timelines for fulfillment and completion of Duke Energy’s obligations to protect public health and the environment.”