RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) – The country’s largest electric company is being ordered to excavate coal ash from all of its North Carolina power plant sites, slashing the risk of toxic chemicals leaking into water supplies but potentially adding billions of dollars to power bills.
North Carolina’s environmental agency said Monday it has decided Duke Energy Corp. must remove the residue left after decades of burning coal from six remaining sites.
The six sites are Allen, Belews, Cliffside/Rogers, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro facilities, officials said.
Duke responded Monday afternoon saying that “excavation at some sites will take decades” and could nearly double the current $5.6 billion estimate for closing the basins.
The company had wanted to cover some storage pits with a waterproof cap, saying that would prevent rain from passing through the pits and carrying chemicals like mercury and arsenic through the unlined bottoms.
Cleanup became a priority after a 2014 leak from a Duke Energy site left coal ash coating 70 miles of the Dan River on the North Carolina-Virginia border.
By August 1, 2019, Duke Energy is required to submit final closure plans.
Here is the full text from Duke Energy:
We are making strong progress to permanently close every ash basin in North Carolina in ways that fully protect people and the environment, while keeping costs down as much as possible for our customers.
With respect to the final six sites—which NCDEQ has ruled are low-risk—science and engineering support a variety of closure methods including capping in place and hybrid cap-in-place as appropriate solutions that all protect public health and the environment. These closure options are also consistent with how hundreds of other basins around the country are expected to be closed.
Excavation at some sites will take decades, stretching well beyond the current state and federal deadlines.
Based on current estimates and closure timeframes, excavating these basins will add approximately $4 billion to $5 billion to the current estimate of $5.6 billion for the Carolinas.
We will carefully review today’s announcement and will continue to support solutions that protect our customers and the environment.