Duke Energy makes progress on coal ash cleanup

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. — Duke Energy has been moving coal ash from the now retired Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly.

The multi-million dollar project is state mandated, and the company wants customers to pay for the cleanup.

Crews have moved more than 3 million tons of coal ash from the site.

A building that used to generate power for eight decades will be torn down soon, signaling Duke Energy's transition from coal to cleaner energy.

“We retired this facility in 2013 because we felt it was time to transition to cleaner energy sources,” Duke Energy spokeswoman Erin Culbert said.

Lawmakers ordered Duke Energy to clean up coal ash statewide after the Dan River spill.

In 2015, the company started completely removing coal ash from the retired power plant on Mountain Island Lake.

The crews load the ash onto covered train cars and use it to fill in an old clay mine in central North Carolina.

Now, they're loading one train every day.

“This site had 4.8 million tons (of coal ash),” Culbert said. “We’ve removed and relocated all but about a million tons of that.”

The project costs $419 million, and early next year, the Utilities Commission will consider raising rates for Charlotte-area residential customers by 16.7 percent in part to fund the cleanup.

“We are required by state and federal to close ash basins in a safe way, but there are an awful lot of logistics costs and expenses involved, as you see behind me,” Culbert said at the site.

Duke Energy expects this project to meet the cleanup deadline set by the state, which is the summer of 2019.