Duke Energy moving forward with removing coal ash

GOLDSBORO N.C. (WNCT) – On Tuesday, Duke Energy announced their plan to excavate 12 more coal ash basins. Five of those basins are at the H.F. Lee Facility in Goldsboro, which falls right next to the Neuse River.

Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy said the announcement comes at a time when the company is trying to follow the state mandate requiring them to clean up their coal ash facilities by 2029.

He said they originally thought they could just cap the coal ash basins at the Lee Facility, but since it falls in a 100 year flood zone, that process would be costly and not beneficial.

“We’re going to be taking that coal ash from the Lee plant to a lined structural fill at a former clay mine in Lee County,” Brooks said.

There is currently about 6 million tons of coal ash at the Lee plant. Brooks said the most they could move in one year would be one million tons. He said they’d prefer to use railroads where possible in the process because they could move more ash at once, and keep trucks off the roadways.

He said the excavation at Lee would take more than six years to complete. Four out of the five ash basins at the facility are wooded, which means before removing the coal ash, Duke Energy would have to remove the vegetation, trees, and animals.

In a statement by the Southern Environmental Law Center, they said, “Clean ups for the additional three unlined, leaking coal ash sites not previously announced–Cape Fear, H.F. Lee, and Weatherspoon in North Carolina–are a big step forward. We’ve been fighting to clean up these three leaking sites in the state enforcement actions and Cape Fear and Lee in federal court.”

They went on to say that their work isn’t done yet, and will continue to fight Duke Energy until all the coal ash is cleaned up.

Brooks said while cleaning up the facilities, they will make sure the surrounding communities are not impacted.

“We’ll be making sure that any ash that is transported, whether by truck or rail, has a number of measures in place to contain dust, to wash down all vehicles who are entering or leaving the site, and then to make sure it’s transported with a minimal amount of moisture, but enough to keep it from dusting,” Brooks said.

Duke Energy also announced they would be excavating coal ash basins from the Cape Fear Plant, W.H. Weatherspoon plant, and Cliffside Steam Station.

To date, Duke Energy has announced plans for 24 out of the 36 coal ash basins, representing around 29% of their total coal ash.

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