Public hearings begin this week on proposed rules and deadlines for closing Duke Energy’s North Carolina coal ash sites. The rules are important because they’ll set deadlines for cleanups and determine whether Duke gets to cap the ash in place, or must move it to more secure locations.
Coal ash – the residue from burning coal - contains toxic heavy metals, which can contaminate land and drinking water.
In December, the state Department of Environmental Quality issued draft classifications for the state’s 14 coal ash sites, labeling about two-thirds high or intermediate risk. Those are the ones that have to be moved.
Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins says ash ponds along the Catawba are especially worrisome, including the Allen plant in Belmont and Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman. His group wants the coal ash relocated.
“These are large sites and there are a lot of people that are affected … and of course a lot of people downstream who depend on the drinking water intakes, who could be affected if these were to fail at some point,” Perkins said.
Fourteen hearings are planned around the state, beginning Tuesday, March 1, 2016, for the Riverbend, Wilmington and Asheville plants and the Dan River site in Eden, where 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled two years, triggering a public outcry.
Tuesday’s hearing about the Riverbend plant, on Mountain Island Lake, begins at 6pm at Gaston College’s Myers Center Auditorium, 201 Hwy. US 321 in Dallas. A hearing for the Allen plant is March 22 at 6:00 p.m. at the same location.
Besides the hearings, the DEQ also is accepting written comments. More information, including the draft classifications, a map of coal ash sites and a list of meeting dates and locations, is at http://deq.nc.gov
See the Catawba Riverkeeper’s page on the coal ash classification hearings: http://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/