DENR considering making Duke Energy move coal ash to lined landfill

cjarvis@newsobserver.comFebruary 25, 2014 

  • McCrory: Move coal ash ponds away from rivers

    Gov. Pat McCrory on Saturday said coal ash ponds should be moved farther from rivers in North Carolina, and the ash should be placed in lined facilities.

    “The immediate goal is to stop any existing leaks, clean up any ramifications from existing leaks and spills, and third, have a long-term solution and hopefully in most cases move these ponds or put a permanent cap on,” McCrory said, speaking during a break at a meeting of the National Governors Association.

    It was his strongest stance yet on what should happen in light of the Feb. 2 spill of 39,000 tons of coal ash from a Duke Energy containment site on the Dan River.

    “I know at the Dan River site there’s a potential site already to at least move it away from the river, which could probably most logically be done in a short period of time, and we’re looking at ways we can encourage the utility to do just that,” McCrory said.

    He said wasn’t just talking about the spill site.

    “I hope in most cases we can move the pond,” so that it isn’t near water, McCrory said. “I’m not an engineer or a scientist but that would be hopefully the best option.”

    The governor, a former Duke Energy employee, said long-term protection of the state’s rivers also was needed for coal ash ponds at plants that are no longer running.

    Asked whether ponds should have liners to prevent toxic waste from leaching out, McCrory said: “Yeah, I think there should be requirements to have liners in and around, but that’s something for the engineers to determine, not politicians.” Renee Schoof, Washington Bureau

  • N.C. coal ash by the numbers

    14 Number of coal ash sites Duke Energy has in N.C.

    32 Number of lagoons Duke operates in N.C.

    106 million Tons of coal ash Duke stores in N.C.

    84 million Tons of coal ash soaking in lagoons

    39,000 Tons of coal ash Duke says spilled into Dan River

— The state’s environmental agency said Tuesday it intends to modify the permit that regulates Duke Energy’s retired coal-powered operation along the Dan River, possibly requiring the utility move its coal ash into a lined landfill.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has formally notified the utility that it will review the current discharge permit. By law, the state has to give Duke 60 days to respond to the decision to reopen the permit process.

On Saturday, Gov. Pat McCrory said he favored moving the coal ash from the Dan River plant to another location, and said state officials have already found a site. McCrory has said he favors requiring Duke to move the coal ash at all 14 of its sites into lined landfills.

The announcement is a sudden change of course by an agency that has been criticized for its oversight of the energy company’s coal ash plants around the state.

DENR and Duke had worked out a proposed settlement that would have required the company pay a $99,000 fine and stop seepage and runoff of contaminated water into rivers. But the state withdrew that settlement after the Feb. 2 spill at Dan River, which sent tens of millions of gallons of ash and water into the river.

DENR has indicated it will decide by March 21 whether to seek a modification of that settlement, in advance of a hearing in superior court on the case on April 4.

The agency said it notified Duke on Monday that it would reopen its wastewater discharge permit to consider modifications. The current permit allows the company to discharge specific amounts of coal ash basin water in to the river.

Tom Reeder, director of the state Division of Water Resources, said one option is to eliminate all coal ash discharges and require the utility move the ash away from the river.

“We are taking swift and appropriate action to address a catastrophic failure at the Dan River power plant,” Reeder is quoted as saying in a news release DENR sent out.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576; Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO

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