State regulators mandate cleanup at coal ash sites, including near Marshall Steam Plant

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina has mandated Duke Energy close all its coal ash sites, including the one at the Marshall Steam Station.

On Thursday, neighbors got a chance to weigh in on how the sites should be closed.

“I'm very interested in our water supply. Of course, we're all on wells over here,” said Roy Alge, who lives next to Marshall Steam Station.

The Department of Environmental Quality talked to neighbors about three ways Duke Energy could close the coal ash basin at Marshall.

Representatives from the department allowed a public comment question and answer period to hear opinions and concerns.

"We know we have to start doing more for the environment,” said Lake Norman resident Joan Gardener. “We have to start thinking about money in a different way and use money to prevent bad things from happening."


Duke Energy said the least expensive option would leave the coal ash where it is but remove the water and place a protective cap over it.

That plan would cost about $200 million and take 15 years to complete.

"We're going for the solution that is safe and efficient,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Bill Norton.

A Duke Energy representative said safety, costs and time are all factors they must consider with the coal ash cleanup.

However, Duke Energy said they want to hear from the people impacted most.

“I'm all for the citizens standing up and counting and being active and keeping themselves informed,” Gardener said.

Environmentalists support an option that would remove coal ash from the current site near the Catawba  River and place it in a lined landfill on the property.

In an email to Channel 9, Brandon Jones, the Catawba Riverkeeper said, "Coal ash contains toxic metals and should not be allowed to continue to pollute our groundwater and threaten our surface water.”

However, Duke Energy said that plan would cost more than $1 billion, would take more than 32 years to complete and would provide no more protection than the other options.

"Why would you pay a billion dollars for the same outcome?” Norton said.

“Money shouldn’t be put above the health and safety of the community,” Gardener said.

Gardener said she has lived along Lake Norman for more than 30 years and would hate to see it change.

"It's a wonderful place. I want to keep it that way, and I'd love to see the ash removed,” she said. “I think it would be cost-effective in the long run."

Five years ago, there was a massive spill into the Dan River at a coal ash site.

It covered 70 miles of the river in gray sludge.

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