DENR urges EPA to expedite permit review

Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 12:00am

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) today sent a letter in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) request for a 90-day extension on the review period for draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for coal ash facilities in North Carolina. The letter asks that the EPA complete its review of the permit within the 60-day public comment period, if possible, which closes May 5.

DENR has proposed modifying existing permits for wastewater discharges as part of the permit renewal process for the Allen, Marshall and Riverbend coal ash facilities near Charlotte. The state is modifying the discharge permits to ensure that existing discharges, some of which are necessary to ensure the integrity of the dams at the coal ash ponds, do not compromise the water quality in lakes and rivers. DENR worked with the EPA to develop the proposed permits to certify that all discharges are properly monitored and sampled to ensure the protection of water quality.

By law, the state has required that all coal ash ponds in North Carolina be closed and all discharges from those ponds eliminated. The proposed modified permits are necessary to relieve pressure on the dams, reduce the hydraulic head on groundwater, and allow for the decanting and dewatering of the coal ash ponds in preparation for ash excavation. The permit review extension requested by the EPA could affect the utilities' ability to excavate ash.