BELMONT, N.C. - Duke Energy has until 2029 to remove coal ash from sites near Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, but the company told Channel 9 on Wednesday it may not be able to make that deadline.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said Monday it would make Duke Energy move coal ash at all remaining coal ash basins across the state into lined landfills.
It includes coal ash in basins at the Allen Steam Station in Belmont and the Marshall Steam Station in Sherrill’s Ford.
The company would first have to remove water inside the coal pits. Afterward, it would have to be safely reintroduced to lakes.
A bill filed in the North Carolina House could protect Duke Energy customers from having to pay for the coal ash clean up. House Bill 567 would prohibit Duke from passing on the costs associated with excavating coal ash sites in the state.
Two Mecklenburg County representatives are sponsors of the bill.
Reporter Tina Terry is looking closer at the bill and exactly how the clean up will happen, on Eyewitness News at 5.
"The second important thing is that the water (is) adequately treated before it's discharged into Lake Norman and (Lake) Wyllie and the Catawba River,” said Frank Holleman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“Removing the free water from the basins is the first step in any closure option, regardless of whether a basin is capped or excavated.” Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said. “To be very clear, this basin water going out to the lakes is not new at all. The main change from before, is we’re no longer putting new water into the basins. It’s critical to note this is all done to very strict permit levels designed to protect neighbors and the environment.”
After the basins are dewatered, the remaining dry coal ash in two basins at Allen could be moved to a lined landfill. That landfill would either be on-site or off-site. Crews would then likely use trucks to transport the ash to the new landfill.
At Marshall, the ash would likely be moved to a lined landfill on-site, and trucks could be used to transport it.
"That is a concern because if it's in the air, it gets into your lungs,” Belmont resident Laura Tench said.
Before those details are hashed out, Duke Energy has to come up with a closure plan by August 2019.
The state said the company would be required to close Allen and Marshall by December of 2029.
“Under our current options analysis, excavation could not be completed by that deadline,” Norton said. “We are re-evaluating our options.”
Channel 9 asked DEQ if the state would allow any wiggle room in that 10-year deadline. DEQ said it was premature to talk about that.
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