The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has secured the excavation of nearly 80 million tons of coal ash at six facilities in North Carolina. Under a settlement agreement with community and environmental groups and Duke Energy that ends the appeal litigation, Duke Energy will move forward with excavation plans at the Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro sites, moving coal ash into on-site lined landfills.
The excavation is the largest coal ash clean up in the nation’s history and will result in more excavation than in four neighboring states combined.
“North Carolina’s communities have lived with the threat of coal ash pollution for too long. They can now be certain that the clean-up of the last coal ash impoundments in our state will begin this year,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan. “We are holding Duke accountable and will continue to hold them accountable for their actions as we protect public health, the environment and our natural resources.”
Under the signed agreement, Duke will be required to excavate more than 76 million tons of coal ash from open, unlined impoundments at the six facilities. More than 3 million tons of non-impoundment coal ash will also be excavated. Two facilities, Roxboro and Marshall, will be subject to additional protective measures for specific sections of impoundments that will remain under existing permitted landfills or structural fills. Protective measures will include stabilization requirements, and surface water and groundwater monitoring and any necessary remediation.
The agreement also requires Duke to enter into a court-supervised consent order with DEQ and the community groups represented by Southern Environmental Law Center.
“This agreement is a historic cleanup of coal ash pollution in North Carolina, and the Department of Environmental Quality and community groups throughout the state have provided essential leadership in obtaining it,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents community groups in court seeking coal ash cleanups in North Carolina. “The water resources and families of North Carolina will benefit from this statewide coal ash cleanup for years to come.”
Duke has submitted closure plans for the excavations by the December 31, 2019 deadline, as required by Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA) of 2016 and in accordance with the agreement. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the closure plans at public hearings near each of the six sites in February. Under CAMA, DEQ’s final action on the closure plans is due within 120 days of receipt of the complete closure plans. Within 60 days of approval, implementation of the plans must begin.