Belews Creek Steam Station | Wikipedia
Duke Energy has agreed to a settlement in which the company will remove tens of millions of tons of coal ash stored in unlined lakes and ponds at six North Carolina sites.
The largest of the six storage sites is Belews Creek Steam Station in Stokes County. Duke Energy and the state Department of Environmental Quality settled in a case brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center. The company will have until 2039 to complete coal-ash excavation at the six sites. The project, removing an approximate 80 million tons of ash and storing it in lined storage pits, could become the nation’s largest coal ash excavation project.
Other sites included in the settlement are in Gaston County, Cleveland County, Catawba County and two sites in Person County.
Coal ash is the waste left over from coal burned in power plants. Environmentalists, organizations and citizens against Duke Energy claim the substance is toxic, detrimental to surrounding air and water, seeps into drinking water and causes illnesses to people and animals.
“For the better part of a decade, these community members have given up time at work and time with their families, they have traveled over and over to give testimony about the impacts of living next to one of these massive coal ash impoundments,” said Amy Adams, the North Carolina Program Manager for Appalachian Voices. “This agreement is a testament to their commitment and sacrifices over these past many years to protect their neighborhoods and the natural resources of the state.”
Duke Energy is in the process of removing coal ash from eight sites elsewhere in North Carolina due to a previous settlement. The company had argued that excavation was not the best way to close these six sites.
“It was a great joy to learn of the state’s decision,” said Stokes County resident Caroline Armijo. “Many people from Stokes County and across the state came together to demand that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality hold Duke accountable for cleaning up the coal ash. This victory was a huge relief. We know from South Carolina’s cleanup that it will make an immediate difference in the water quality and will be quicker and cheaper than estimated.”