Coal ash landfill operators in Chatham County cited second time for permit violations

For the second time this year, state officials have cited a coal ash landfill in Chatham county for environmental permit violations.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality said Monday the operators of the Brickhaven coal ash landfill have again failed to obtain the necessary state and county environmental approvals to develop and operate the site. The facility began receiving shipments of coal ash from Duke Energy power plants Oct. 23.

It’s the second such citation for the landfill operators, Green Meadow and Moncure Holdings, in the past five months. Previously the agency cited the operators in June for failing to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, approval for the facility, which is still under construction.

The companies couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

In June, Green Meadow and Moncure Holdings immediately ceased all construction activity on the site and obtained the required permits, said DEQ spokesman Mike Rusher. This time, however, DEQ has asked the companies to submit information on the duration of the violation, noting that the agency can levy fines up to $25,000 per day per violation.

“This doesn’t happen all the time,” Rusher said of the repeat offense. “It’s as if they started work without the proper approvals.”

State officials issued a notice of violation to the landfill operators on Nov. 25, citing a culvert for stormwater drainage that was buried under an access road without approval. Discharging stormwater from land-disturbing activity requires state and local approval as part of a developer’s erosion and sedimentation control plan.

Both violations – in June and last week – involved clearing land and excavating without approval.

Green Meadow and Moncure Holdings are developing two coal ash landfills, one in Chatham and the other in Lee County, to store coal ash from Duke Energy coal-burning power plants. Both landfills met with strong public opposition from local residents concerned about potential environmental damage and declining property values.

The Chatham County site is designed to hold about 12 million tons of coal ash. The landfill is taking ash in a portion of the site, with other “cells” still under development, said Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks.

The landfill is receiving as many as 20 trucks of ash daily from the Riverbend Steam Station in Mt. Holly and the Sutton Plant in Wilmington, Brooks said.

The facility will begin receiving coal ash by rail upon the completion of rail spur to the site in January 2016, and subsequently most of the ash brought to the site will be delivered by rail, Brooks said.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski