Under the Dome

March 24, 2014

Environmental group offers coal ash storage alternative

Everyone wants to see coal ash go away. But just where it might go when Duke Energy begins cleaning up its 14 sites in North Carolina remains unknown. But one group of environmentalists says hauling it to lined and covered landfills is a bad idea.

Everyone wants to see coal ash go away. But just where it might go when Duke Energy begins cleaning up its 14 sites in North Carolina remains unknown.

The general discussion is that it will be shipped off to lined and covered landfills somewhere. But on Monday, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League issued a report saying that’s a bad idea.

What that group would like to see happen is for the coal ash to remain on the utility company’s property and put in concrete vaults above ground, mixed with cement and slag that hardens after it’s pumped inside.

The technology was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and has been in use at the Savannah River Site in Georgia, and has been in operation since 1990. The technology has been around for decades, the group says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that even lined landfills leak some, the group says.

At a news conference in front of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources in downtown Raleigh on Monday, the environmentalists also expressed concern that Duke not move coal ash into landfills in poor areas that have a majority of minority residents. A federal civil rights lawsuit over just that issue in pending in Alabama, where Uniontown, a community of 68 percent African-Americans, became neighbors of a landfill that received coal ash from the 2008 Kingston spill in Tennessee.

“What we don’t want to see happen is another Uniontown in North Carolina,” said Lou Zeller, executive director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense Fund.

The organization planned to deliver its report to DENR. But it set a confrontational tone when members held up a banner depicting a top hat-adorned Gov. Pat McCrory as “Duke of Pollution.”

Jim Warren of N.C. WARN, another environmental advocacy group, joined the news conference to call for transparency in the process of determining what to do with the coal ash.

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