Questions remain about Duke Energy's coal ash plan for airport

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

Loading
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A plan to move millions of tons of coal ash from near Mountain Island Lake to Charlotte’s airport could have serious consequences for neighbors along the way and for the city’s water treatment plants.
 
The Utilities Department is also looking at the decision to move the coal ash closely, because if the coal ash is buried at the airport, toxic runoff could end up in city sewers.
 
To move the 4 million tons of coal ash stored near Mountain Island Lake, Duke Energy is proposing using dump trucks used in a similar project in Asheville.
 
At 25 tons per truck load, it would take more than 160,000 trucks to clear out the coal ash stash outside Charlotte.
 
It’s enough to send 87 trucks a day, seven days a week for five years onto a narrow road that leads to Duke’s Riverbend steam plant.
 
“It’s a staggering number,” resident Sara Behnke said.
 
Behnke lives close by and she said she worries about how all that heavy traffic will mix with neighborhoods like Stonewater, which sits just across the street from all that coal ash.

“That road has very little shoulder.  It's a two-lane road.  We have over 300 families that live in that community,” Behnke said.
 
Traffic isn’t the only concern being raised.
 
“I don’t see a good route,” Charlotte resident Paul Deavers said.
 
Deavers said he's worried toxic coal ash dust will escape from the trucks as they drive between the lake and the airport.  
 
Some are suggesting Duke use rail cars instead of trucks to transport the coal ash.  Duke Energy said it's considering many options.

City leaders said they're anxious to hear them.

“Make sure we're doing it the best way, the safest way, the smartest way,” said Michael Barnes, a member of Charlotte City Council.
 
One other big concern that's been raised is about what happens to toxic runoff if coal ash ends up at the airport. Duke's contractor said initially that it would be pumped into the city sewer system.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department said it's not sure if any toxins could pass through filters or what they might do to the equipment.